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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mommy Exhausted

This week has proven to be a very exhausting week for this mommy. I know I am not the only one (CAN I GET AN AMEN?)... AND it is only Wednesday.

The girls (all three of them) have had the flu this week. First Serina, my sweet, amazing 17 year old step daughter gets sick in school (bleck) on Monday.  I pick her up, and bring her home. I thought she was just low on protein (because she was light headed and shaky), I fed her egg salad, a cheese stick, and a Greek yogurt.  The poor girl didn't see me coming with the protein, but based on the fact that the other girls got sick, I wonder if she had the flu too. But, she was shaky, and light headed--- I thought it was protein, not flu. OYE!  AND then Alex, my 14 (almost 15) funny step daughter had testing done at the hospital on Monday... THEN Monday night (after a couple of hours of searching for the ultimate hoodie for her-- to cover up the Holter heart monitor she has to wear to school the next day) Alex gets sick after dinner--- the flu…She was sick all night and into Tuesday. 

I love working from home, because even though my job is busy and demanding--- I work from home (hello, duh moment). I can check on my kiddos when they aren't feeling well. BLESSING! (Can I get an AMEN and a HOLLAH?--- I don't know what it is with me and the AMENs today, please just bare with me... ha)  Thinking that the flu has passed, based on older girls feeling better and the almost empty can of Lysol I have in my hand--- I get excited. Phillip, Kennith, Madelynn and I are all flu-free. Here is one bug that didn't take down the whole Wenndt clan...

I was so mistaken. At 4 am this morning, our precious Madelynn woke up and was hot. She had a fever and then by 6 am the flu was full throttle. My poor littlest munchkin-ette is sick. Flu for the first time, not a milestone I want to tweet or scrapbook about but we made it through the storm, and she was so adorable about it. So cuddly and she just wanted to watch movies.

I do not like to see my kids sick. I know we, as moms, don't like it when anyone is sick. I would trade my kids’ sickness any day and carry their sickness if I could. They are my world. I don't like to see them hurting or sick.

As I write this, I remember the other day when I was in the store and a child told his mom he was sick.  She disregarded him, and then yelled at him for not hurrying along. He said he was sick, really sick. She then replied, "We are in a hurry, am I SUPPOSED to care?" My answer is YES. I mean, I didn't say anything while at the store, but as parents our answer is YES. YOU are supposed to care, unconditionally, and always. This shouldn't be something that you HAVE TO do; it should be something that you WANT to do. Being a parent (whether you are a child's biological or step parent) is an honor. It is a privilege. Wear it like a badge of honor for the world to see.  "HI, I AM MELISSA. I HAVE THE HONOR OF BEING A MOM TO SERINA, ALEX, KENNITH, AND MADELYNN!" I love that badge. It is one of courage, humility, and overabundant love.

It is not easy being a parent. We are not our kids' best friends, we are responsible for raising good human beings with big hearts, a hunger to strive for better, a drive to be the best they can... compassion for the people around them... we are responsible for teaching them the difference between right and wrong, so someday they can make their own decisions thoughtfully. We need to show them this by being the example.

When my babies get sick, I worry about them, and then I think of how much each of them have grown in a year. How they are growing into their own. My heart melts, and I forget how exhausted I am between work, sick kids, dinner, Taekwondo, work, more work (my work has been busy--lol).

As a mom, I take my role very seriously. I know Phillip and I make decisions regarding their wellbeing that they don't like or they don't agree with. But that is our job and it is the most important job we have in our lives. One decision can be life altering when it comes to our kids. I want to be thoughtful about it. Now, do my kids know how to work me? Sure they do. But, I know when to say no, when to say yes... and when to say, "GO ASK YOUR FATHER."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kennith's Story--- a Journey Through ADHD

I decided to write about our ADHD journey with Kennith, because I have a few friends who are taking the same journey with their children, or they think their child may have ADHD.  ADHD is a scary journey and for some doctors, it seems like every child who is active is an ADHD child so let's put them on medication... in my humble opinion, this should not the case. Some kids are just busy.  For my son, it was reality.  A very hard reality for me to come to terms with.  A reality that took me almost 6 years to fully come to terms with, to be quite honest.

From the time Kennith was two, I suspected he had ADHD.  When he would have his meltdowns, they were pretty serious.  He would fall on the ground (whether in a parking lot or in the bakery of the grocery store) and bang his head into the floor.  I remember when he was three, so vividly- we were at the local grocery store and I had to get some bratwurst buns for a BBQ we were going to that night.  Walking into the store, my son wanted to go look at the cakes (he has ALWAYS LOVED the pretty cakes in Hy-Vee, our local grocery store).  When I said no, he ran to the bakery, I tried to grab him and he started banging his head into the floor.  People gathered around and I dropped the brat buns and took him into the women's bathroom.  In that women's bathroom I crawled on the floor with him, held him tight so he couldn't hurt himself and I just cried. Then? What is a girl going to do? I called my mother. Her suggestion? By any means, drag him out of the store, and go home. Do not buy your buns for the BBQ, do not recognize his behavior and just get him home.  I couldn't believe what she was suggesting, I needed those darn buns. So, I had to DRAG my child out of the store. DRAG him, literally.  I am 5'4' and I am dragging this solid three year old out because he would throw his body so hard against my arms, I almost dropped him.  When I got home, we talked about why we left, and he looked up at me with his baby blue eyes and said, "Sorries mama."  I had to forgive him, he is my baby and my world. Next thing I knew, there was a knock at my door. My mother... with the buns.

I started notice that Kennith had a bit more aggressive behavior than his peers.  At one time, he bit a child so hard in daycare he broke the child's skin.  In addition, I noticed that Kennith would get frustrated a lot and get upset, to the point where he would rage.  We spent many days doing time ins. (me holding him and telling him it would be ok).  Kennith also would say negative things about himself that I would NEVER say, thinks like, "I am so stupid." This was a huge concern for me. I always want my kids to feel like they are valued, supported, and loved beyond measure. After doing research, I found out that an accurate diagnosis for ADHD isn't made until children are around age 7.  So, I would keep track of his behavior so I had documentation for a doctor in the future. 

So, I was on a mission. I tried not to get frustrated with him. Any attention is attention and kids will seek it. I focused on telling him good things every day about himself. AND I ONLY rewarded good behavior. So, instead of losing my cool (as I had been) I researched. I am a researcher by trade, so I researched everything first. My mother in law found a great book, "The Strong Willed Child" by James Dobson.  It had some great tools in there for little kids like Kennith. I started working on a plan right away! 

At this time, Kennith was almost three and a half and not potty trained. He would get so upset over the whole process, I just gave up. I kept thinking that he will train when he feels like it.  One of the things I did, is I really tried to focus on what motivated him.  He LOVED (and still does) match box cars.  They were $1(ish) at the store.  So, we gave him a dollar for every time he went potty and talked about how $1 equals one match box car… it worked! So, then I went to the school supply store and bought a big calendar. I divided each day into three categories and had STICKERS and a sharpie!! (my kids love sticker.)  The three sections represented were: potty on the potty, pick up toys, and NO temper tantrums.  We had a code to the chart – one star sticker = 10 cents, one bear sticker = 25 cents and one smiley face sticker was worth 50 cents.  If he got THREE stickers in one category and had NO tantrums, he got a big smiley face.  The first few days it SUCKED.  Royally. He was so naughty, I cried every night. BUT, my mom said… YOU have to keep winning. Melissa…stick to it.  So I did.  Within two weeks, he was fully potty trained (he had about 50 match box cars, but he was potty trained) and within two months he stopped having temper tantrums.

As he got older, I noticed his development with certain things was off from other kids.  Kennith couldn’t tie his shoes. He couldn’t tie them until this summer, the summer before second grade. He would get so frustrated and shut down.  What did it take? He is a visual kid. So, we found a YouTube video online – Sesame Street. Singing and tying a shoe… he had it down in two days!  Other developmental signs I noticed, he didn’t like to color.  He would write his letters and numbers backwards and ALWAYS had a hard time holding a pencil.  He couldn’t read for comprehension. And he could  not pay attention.  I often found myself repeating the SAME thing more than three times to him IN A ROW!  I was one frustrated mommy! I tried behavior modification with him, and changed his food intake (little sugar, NO caffeine EVER).  It still wasn’t enough…

So, Phillip and I talked about it last winter (2011). I said I would take him to the doctor. Kennith’s behavior got worse.  He was having a hard time in school.  Every day a new kid was mean to him, he was sad, and he had no friends. He started talking back to me and throwing fits. He was now SEVEN for cry eye. I procrastinated. I didn’t want him to be put on medication that would make him a drone. I didn’t want my son to change. I kept procrastinating… Then it was May.  He was getting into so much trouble I wanted to cry… I was in denial. I was in denial that my son needed help.

It was then that my husband sat down with me and we talked about it. Phillip is an educator of young minds and talked to me about if from an education standpoint, and I got it. Then I felt SO bad for not getting him help sooner.  I felt GUILTY (no, Melissa… you? Get outta here.) BUT, I got him help. I have to remember that.  I ended up taking him to our doctor and she said that he should be evaluated.  Anyone who thinks their child may have ADD or ADHD, don’t just settle for a doctor prescribing medication. Make sure your child goes to a child psychologist who specializes in ADHD, they will do proper testing.  In August of 2011, we finally met with the psychologist, and she did an evaluation on Kennith. She then called Phillip and I back and I got the news. My every mom-gut inclination… Kennith had severe ADHD.  I found that it was causing him to be behind in reading, writing, and cognitive skills.  His doctor sees him every month to make sure the medication is working. Kennith went through several medications before we found the perfect medication for him.  One medication made him drone like, another one made him ANGRY. The key to finding the perfect ADHD medication is the one that doesn’t change your child, but helps them focus.  We found that after five months trying medicines. Every child is different.
Kennith is a well rounded child.  We manage and help him manage his ADHD by behavior modification, activities (like TaeKwanDo helps with his level of focus), food, and medication.  Medicine doesn’t fix ADHD, it helps the child stay focused and blur out all the extra “noise”. It is Kennith’s job (and ours) to manage his behavior and guide him to make the right choices and be rewarded.  He makes choices, he has consequences, just like everyone else.  He doesn’t get to blame his bad choices on his ADHD, he has to work through them.
I look at Kennith today and I know we did the right thing for him.  I can see it in his smile… feel it when he hugs me, and see it when he really pays attention to what I say (I don’t have to CONSTANTLY REPEAT myself anymore).  He has ADHD. He is happy. He is doing well in school. He is focused.  He is a silly boy. He knows how important and smart he is. Most importantly, Kennith is himself.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

World of Bribery

Is it just me, or does anyone else BRIBE their kids? Here I sit and tell them all how important it is to tell the truth, and to work hard, blah-blah-blah... but as I sit here and type this, my 2 1/2 year old is eating a bowl of ice cream. It is not even 8 AM and she is eating ice cream. WHY? Because I bribed her. She is in the middle of potty training and she WILL NOT poop on the potty to save her life. SO, I told her she could have ice cream when she poops on the potty. Sure enough, after days of bribing her little toddler self, it worked.  I am sitting out in the kitchen, enjoying some GMA and a cup of coffee (the juice of the gods), and I hear this sweet little voice coming from the bathroom.  "MOMMY I POOPIED."  I got excited, and sure enough... she did.  Now, for those of you who have NOT had the pleasure of potty training, it takes a lot of time, lots of positive reinforcement, patience, and bribery. LOL 

In order to get her to go number one on the potty, we bribed her with M&Ms and stickers. Her sticker chart is full of characters, but she loves putting a sticker on the chart for going potty. I feel this is a positive form of bribery, but really when is bribery positive? I mean, it is a walking contradiction but it seems to be working. She just asked me for more ice cream as I am writing this... my answer, "You can have more when you poopy on the potty again." HAHA  Then my 8 year old son chimes in, why don't I get ice cream when I go number two. I said you got dollars for going potty at this age. Now, you have an allowance. You get to buy real things. He bought that.

And my 14 year old is having some medical issues right now.  She wanted to go to school yesterday, but the doctor said NO. I tell her, “You have to relax and wait for some blood work to come back.” My 14 yr old was like, I will just go. So I bribed HER in a way. I said, you either stay home and do homework here, or I can accompany you to high school and walk you from class to class. This tactic worked. She stayed home. NO ONE wants mom to go to school with them when they are in high school. Battle won.

But, here is the catch, when I see HER bribing her brother to do something; it is as if mean mommy rears her ugly head. I tell her how unethical it is to bribe someone.  She then retorts and says, don't politicians kind of bribe people (darn smart child). My response is, yes they do. But, if you just go clean your room for me, I will give you $20. Trying to gently back out of the conversation... by BRIBING her again.


But is it bribery? Or is it a reward? I think the system we use is more of a reward for doing the right thing, versus bribing our children to STOP doing the bad thing.  And if we are giving them a known reward for positive reinforcement is it wrong?  I want my kids to know that they can rejoice and have ice cream if they do something right! I want my kids to know that if they don't clean their rooms by a specific date they WON'T get the prize I have set forth for them.  A lot of times we can be very soft on our kids, and it is our job to teach them if they work hard, they will accomplish a lot. And if they chose not to do the work, they will not get the reward.

It is HARD to follow through with this, but in life, we don't always win. (Don’t EVEN get me started about this, everyone wins stuff they do now in school. I want my kids to win and lose, if that makes sense, and that may be tomorrow’s blog… LOL) As I digress… I want my kids to know how to lose gracefully and with dignity. I don't want them to be blindsided when they get older and realize that some people win, some people lose... I want them to know the point of the game… the point is to play the game and have fun.

So, maybe I need to start calling my system a “reward system” versus bribery.  I love rewarding my kids for all of the great things they do.  I spend a lot of time rewarding great, versus focusing a lot on the not so great. I know that my babies, like everyone else’s, crave attention and whether it is positive or negative they crave it. So, along with the kids’ rewards, I also make a big deal of the random acts of goodness they do. I think it is paying off, for I am truly blessed by some of the random goodness that comes from their hearts.

Maddy's potty chart covered in stickers! I love seeing this progress she is making!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe time! Blueberry Quinoa Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes and it is very light and healthy.  Even my little ones like it, because it is a "flavor explosion" according to Kennith, my 8 year old.

Blueberry Quinoa Salad

serves 8

1 cup quinoa (grain like couscous or bulgar)
2 cups water
salt to taste
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
4 oz reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper (i had to use green, all I had)
1/4 to 1/3 cup of Wishbone Raspberry Hazelnut dressing

1) For the salad, in a heavy saute pan, toast the quinoa on medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes

2) Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to boiling, then carefully pour water into the quinoa. Add salt to taste; cover, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes. transfer quinoa to a large bowl; let cool.

3) Add blueberries, feta cheese, walnuts, parsley and bell pepper; mix gently. Drizzle dressing over salad; stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Picture below, and not great quality since i just took it in my office while teaching. LOL

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time Flies

What a great weekend! Date night was a success! I actually got dressed up and put make-up on! Phillip and I had a WONDERFUL date night--- A movie, dinner, and dueling pianos! I tried and tried, but I couldn't get Phillip on board with the paint your own pottery thing.  Maybe next time. LOL And while we were on our date night, my son (who is 8) and my mom had a date night of their own. They went to a movie and... How did you guess? CULVERS? Why yes!

Why does the weekend go by so fast? Is it that we try and pack EVERYTHING into two days? Food shopping, other shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc?  I know that is how it goes here at the Wenndt house.  Then add in TaeKwanDo on Saturday mornings for an hour and fifteen minutes! PLUS church on Sundays... sure makes the weekend fly by!

In order to maximize weekend time with my family, I am on a mission to do food shopping on Thursday night instead of during the weekend. I am going to try and go after the kids go to bed.  By myself. Crazy idea, but I bet without the kids I even will save money! LOL Let's see if it can work.  Now to set the DVR to record Grey's Anatomy. HAHA

Friday, February 17, 2012

TGIF! - Date Night? WHHHAT?

Hello, and happy Friday!  So, I have started on my getting out of "dirty mommy" mode.  I am actually wearing my hair down (not in a ponytail) and although I am wearing sweat pants, I have put on layered t-shirts instead of a hoodie, I have mascara on... I am making progress! I kissed my husband twice this morning before he left and I squeezed his tush. How naughty is that? It made me giggle and as I type this I have a little secret grin knowing I was able to squeeze the tush without any of the kids (OR MY MOTHER) seeing it. I am a 40 year old woman who feels giddy over a stolen moment with my hubby!

So, my mom is in town for the weekend.  She offered to watch the kids on Saturday night so Phillip and I could have a date night. I know, a date? WHAT is that? I am so excited to get all dressed up and go out with Phillip, but where? Do what? I am way to old to be shakin-my-thang on the dance floor at the dance club with the 20-somethings, and bingo at the VFW sounds a bit "mature" for my taste. So, how do we take advantage of this night out (without guilt- I swear I will NOT feel guilty) and have a bit of adult time and romance? I guess the problem for us is that we get in the car and we are like... what do we do? I-dunno. What do you want to do? I-dunno. You? I-dunno. I think as parents we get shell shocked when we get dressed up and go out on the town sans kids, to the point where we can't even make up our minds regarding what to eat. At the end of the I-dunno session, Phillip and I usually settle for Culvers. No lie, because it is what we KNOW. Our kids LOVE it, so it is what we are used to.

So, knowing that we have this pending date night on Saturday night is kinda stressin' me out. I mean, our "normal" date nights end up starting at 9 pm on a Saturday. All of the kids are in bed, and we snuggle in for a movie and a glass of wine, to wake up on the sofa at midnight because someone snored so loudly we woke up in a panic! So, going out for date night is a novel idea. And what to do...  Do we do the normal and go to Culvers followed by Menards and Wal-Mart to do shopping without the kids? Or should we find something FUN to do as a couple... I mean, even though we are mommy and daddy, we are partners in this journey of life... we deserve some romance and fun.  I think we should try something different.

So, the Saturday night date challenge for the Wenndts begin.  I have done a bit of researching to see what we can do. And maybe, I keep this list so that Phillip and I can do something different every month as a romantic reconnect.  I have some great friends (K and M) who always find different things to do on the weekend - soup dinners, chocolate walks, etc.  M always sends me the information, and I try to go-- but with the younger kids it can be too hard to do ANYTHING after 7 pm.  So I live vicariously through his adventures with K.  So, maybe I take the information I have gathered from M and really make a list of things Phillip and I shall try in the next few months. I think I have a plan!  Here is how I plan on setting up the monthly date night with Phillip...

1) Always have a nice dinner out on date night. Somewhere different! I personally want to start trying local eateries in my town! I love using Living Social and Groupon, and I have a Living Social deal to use for a local Irish Pub... I think we will try this on Saturday night! It is downtown, and centrally located to anything we could do (but far enough away from Wal-Mart, get me here? LOL)
2) Do something different. Every date night, do something different--- try NOT to do the same thing every time.  So, once go to a movie, and the next date night go for a romatic walk in the park.  Try not to get into the "date" rut... you know, the date rut you were in when you were in your early 20s and dating. You would go to Applebee's and then to the local dance club to dance. Every weekend night you went to Applebee's and the local dance club to dance (for me it was at UNI and we went to Club Shagnasties.  Yep, the name says it all).

So, here are some random things I think Phillip and I should try over the year on our date nights... Things we might enjoy. And if we don't enjoy it- at least we tried it to see if we liked it or not (another DUH statement for the world to read).
1) Comedy club - we love to laugh. We have been to the comedy club here in town, so we know it is a "safer" bet for us on date night. The ownership is different now, so it will be a different experience when we are there. I am not sure if the dueling pianos will be there still. IF not, it could make me very sad.

2) Painting pottery at one of the paint-it-yourself pottery studios

3) A benefit dinner- these are usually a bit expensive, but your money goes to a good cause.  You can get all dressed up in your Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes and have some great food and bid on great auction items!

4) Go on a midnight picnic... or late night picnic. Take some fruit, wine, and a blanket.  Enjoy the evening looking at the stars, talking with each other, and flirting.  LEAVE THE CELL PHONE IN THE CAR! I love this idea, but February in IOWA may not be the right time for this.

5) See a play.  Live theater is AMAZING! Spend some time watching a live production instead of a movie.

6) Go to a concert. Wether it is a high school orchestra concert or Bon Jovi (I use Bon Jovi, because I have always wanted to see him in concert... then with the whole, OH MY GOODNESS HE DIED fake internet thing, it really rekindled my love for Jon Bon Jovi)

7) Go karaoke.  Make each other play KAMAKAZI KARAOKE and just randomly pick songs to sing. Be horrible. Laugh at yourself and have fun!

8) Have a grown up gathering at our house with friends. Have the kids go to grandma's for the night... play cards, have food and entertain.

9) Go to a bar and hit on each other. Like they do in the movies.  Flirt.  Then, take the man home with me. I mean, he is my husband, but no one else has to know it. Of course, this requires lots of make up, big hair and tight jeans on this 40 yr old bum.

10) Rent a hotel room with a jacuzzi. Suprise my husband with it... have it set up to be man-omantic (which is my term for man romantic). 

So, these are my thoughts- I am not sure what one we are going to try Saturday night, but I KNOW we won't be going to Menard's or Wal-Mart.  They are NOT on this list.  I am smiling, and I am excited. NOW, where are my perfect BUTT jeans.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moms UNITE - Take a Time Out

I have been pondering all day about what to write about. As I ponder, I really think I need a mommy time out.  The last time I had a "time out" I went to a friend's house for a "Simply Said" party and I loved it.  She had made some WONDERFUL food and I had a glass of wine, and enjoyed my time with grown-ups. But here is the thing... I felt GUILTY for being there, instead of being at home.  I was constantly checking my text messages to see if my kids needed me, and my husband was like, "I GOT THIS... go, enjoy your time" and I had a nice time, but I kept checking my phone and my watch.  I felt guilty. Does ANYONE else get like this?

I think as moms we tend to give everything we have to our kids, our spouse, our homes, our jobs, and even our pets. At the end of it all, we forget to give any attention to ourselves, and if you are like me... when you finally do, you feel guilty. 

I walk around most days in sweat pants and a hoodie.  I don't put on make-up. Jewelry? What the heck is that? I have become a minimalist mom. I used to wear make-up and get my nails done. Now, if I have a splatter of polish on my nails from painting Maddy's toes (she is my 2 1/2 diva) it is a good day. I am all dressed up! Really, I love this life and I would NEVER trade it for anything in the world, but maybe mommy deserves a time out, without guilt.  How do I get out of the "dirty mommy" mode? (Really, you know I don't mean bow-chicka-wow-wow dirty... haha)  Now, to clear the air, my kids and my husband are just fine when I do something for me... I am the person who puts the guilt trip on me.  So, I have decided to resolve this inner conflict.  How to I combat dirty mommy and take a time out for mental health? LOL it's not like I can call into this job sick. HAHA Here is how I plan to do it---

1) Put on make-up every day, even if it is just mascara. For some reason, when I wear make-up, I personally feel better.
2) Take 5 minutes to do something just for me--- this sounds crazy, but instead of trying to type out my grocery list on my cell phone while using the restroom (you know you have done something like this, multi-tasking. lol)  maybe I take 5 minutes to look up a new recipe to try and make it for dinner. This is something I really enjoy to do. I love to cook.
3) Enjoy a night out with the girls every month.  Thanks to my dear friend I met thru Cub Scouts, she suggested a bunch of ladies get together every month and do something new.  Last month it was "Simply Said" this month it is SPRAY TANNING! Oh, I am so excited for this!!!! (and it is organic spray tan, so it is healthier times two. You know, no fake baking and organic!)
4) Take time to find the romance in my relationship- I make sure to kiss my husband every morning and every night. And maybe instead of wearing sweats to bed I actually put on some cute pajamas. Having my husband show affection helps me stay sane. (Don't ever let him know I said that. HA)
5) Know it is OK to have a time out and NOT hold myself to this different standard.--- try NOT to feel guilty about it. Remind myself that it is OK take time for myself. It is kinda like the air plane; put your own air mask on first before you assist others. Bwwaaahhhhaaa. 

So for this fine Thursday and my third blog... I am going to try and follow my rules. We shall see how it goes!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Souvenir Idea; Cost Effective and Fun

So, when we travel, I am the cheese in the family. I love to get those cheesy trinkets for all of the kids at the souvenir shop that break in five minutes.  However, having four children on a trip PLUS two adults makes souvenir shopping quite expensive.

On our last vacation, we went to Carolina Beach, North Carolina.  Instead of getting a souvenir for each child (which we usually do at each stop when we I said I am THAT kind of cheesy), we used the money to upgrade our hotel room, which gave us this BEAUTIFUL ocean view! The kids loved it! Every morning we would get up and head down to the beach and hunt for seashells.  We collected so many of them!  It was a great bonding time for all of us.  It was the first time my husband and step daughters had ever been to the beach (Serina was 17 yrs old and Alex was 14 yrs old), so it was a very special time. I am such a lover of the beach, it was so much fun to share that with them, and see the ocean through their eyes!

When we got home from the trip, I grabbed some old ball jars from my basement and each child sat around the table and went through the shells and rocks and put them in the jar. As they did, they talked about their favorite parts of our vacation.  We spent time laughing about the things we did.  So much better than buying a T-shirt for $20 that says, "I HEART CAROLINA BEACH, NC." That shirt? It would be in the back of their closets today... The jar of shells sits on a shelf in each of their rooms.  Whenever I see it, I smile, my heart melts, and I fall in love with my kids all over again.

Total cost of the souvenir? Nothing but love. We already had the jars and the seashells were free. Memories created? Many.

I am a big saver of "stuff" from trips. I save ticket stubs, cab receipts, menus, etc.  These are great "free" items that can be used later to create a memory with your family.  Grab a ball jar, put the "stuff" collected in it. Regardless of whether the jar contains a bunch of seashells or ticket stubs or rocks or money- Anything can work... anything that you can see on the shelf that makes you smile, remembering how much fun you had with your family. Creating memories that last a lifetime.

The next time you are out of town, or on an "adventure" (as my 2 year old calls going to the mall or the store), see if there are items you can find to create a memory!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Random, Scattered World... Welcome to it!

I am a mom of two kids... wait, make that three... ok, well four... or it's five. Being a mom of a blended family is very hard.  I have a biological son, a biological daughter, a step-daughter, and a step-step-daughter, and a step-step-son.  Now... does that even make crazy sense? Regardless, I am a mom, and with being a mom I feel as if my life is SO random! More random than it ever has been. I am a coffee-drinking-cookie-baking-homework-helping-dinner-cooking-job-working-dog-walking-craft-building-ADHD-kind of mom. It is like life is ...well life. (A total DUH moment, but instead of me saying it outloud... I just wrote it for the world to read. THIS is what I am talking about.)

So, I decided to be creative and blog about my crazy life. I know, you are thinking... way to go Mel!  Do something unique and original. So as I take another sip of my sarcasm (along with a side of coffee), I will open up this blog by telling you a bit about me.  In future blogs I will write about anything that I can think of because I am totally random. AND I love to cook and do crafty things. So, I am sure there will be recipes on here somewhere that I have tweaked, and random crafts here and there. Maybe my opinion on wine (which the answer is YES, SIR- MAY I HAVE SOME MORE). 

A mom's world is colorful. Sometimes it is the random crayon writing on the wall that colors it... sometimes it is the eight year old boy in your life who wants to play hangman, so you drop what you are doing and his puzzle is, "I love you." Sometimes it is a 14 year old girl who comes to you for advice on boys or to cry over a boy.  Sometimes it is your husband bringing you daisies on a random Tuesday. These are the beautiful colors of mom-dome. These are the moments that make all the crazy worth it.

I met my husband 22 years ago when I went to college.  He was my best friend and I had a super huge crush on him. I know he knew it, but we never did anything about it. He was the sun-in, mullet sportin' kind of guy... I was the geeky girl who was large and in charge. We lost contact with each other after he married someone else. My heart broke, and my 24 year old self wanted to call him and sing "Save the Best for Last" and see if I could persuade him to not marry her but to marry me... but alas, I didn't. I moved to Houston and met my first husband.  We were both overweight, and I should have seen the first clue when it hit me over the head like a boulder... the clue that we shouldn't be together. The moment when he said to me after our first meeting, "I only went out with you guys because I thought your roommate was cute, but you are the one who said yes to a date."  What was I thinking? We are friends now, but we had a marriage that went on a downward spiral.  My ex-husband and I were both grossly overweight when we met, and I feel lilke he settled for me and vice versa.  He was 460 lbs, I was 355 lbs.  We both had weight loss surgery on the same day in 2002. NO ONE ever told us the ramifications of having this surgery outside of how it would change our lives for the better. NO ONE told either of us how horrible the surgery was on a marriage, and that the divorce rate for after the surgery is 80% ish. But, I found that out later. My ex-husband will deny it to his grave, but as we lost weight, he got angry. I am not sure if it was at me, or at the process, or at the fact that people noticed us more. I really don't know. But he moved his food addiction to alcohol and he was a horrible, mean drunk. Our relationship followed the pattern of typical abuse. He would blow up and block me in a room. He would tell me how horrible I was and rage at me. Once I got so scared and upset (I wanted to leave the room) I threw a remote towards him to make him move.  Only to find out that gave him license to hit me.  Then the next day he would apologize and tell me he is going to stop drinking, he will be better. Then we would go through this honeymoon phase. Pretty soon, he was dropping clues that the anger was building up again, and then it would happen. Every time the physical abuse would get worse. I asked him for three years to go to counseling, and finally did.  The outcome? If I said something that made him look bad in the session, I would pay for it. Our marriage ended the night he was drunk and decided to beat my head into the wood floor in our kitchen... after he disconnected the phones and shattered my cell phone. It was the death of the old me and the rebirth of the woman I am today.  My ex-husband lives in Texas and rarely talks to our son.  His choice to move, his choice to not be a part of our son's life. I have forgiven him for his abuse, but I never have to forget it.  You know in church last Sunday our pastor said that in sorrow you can find joy.  I guess I truly believe this. Through the sorrow of my first marriage, I was able to figure out what I wanted out of a partner and I have found joy.

In June of 2010, I went to a ladies night at church and this amazing woman, Barb Dean, spoke about hearts desires and how God can give them to you. You just have to be thankful for it EVEN before you have it. I was a single mom with two children, and I was in a quazi-relationship with Max. Max was very nice and we got along well, but he didn't want kids. He didn't want to get married again, and I thought... maybe he will change. But I was not so sure. So, I wrote out a list of my ideal partner. I thanked God every day for the man who is perfect for me.  Some may call this silly, but it helped me stay focused on what I wanted in life. I always put others before me and this was a time for me to take a stand. I was thankful, and I prayed on that list.

July of 2010, my grandmother passed away, and it was hard on us, because she was such a foundation, a rock for my family. I was with her when she passed away, and as sad as it was, she lives on. I would never trade that moment for anything.  When I was going through her pictures, on the top of the box was a picture of my 19 year old self with my best friend from college, Phillip.  Years have gone by and I always think about him. I put the picture to the side, but I couldn't get him out of my head.  A couple of weeks after my grandmother passed I went on a weekend get away with Max.  That weekend is when he said to me, "Melissa, I love you but I don't know if I could live with you and the kids. Maybe we can get a duplex and share a door."  That was it. He didn't even think of what the MEANING was behind his words. I was done. This is NOT what I wanted out of life. To share a door. Get outta here. Even to this day, it makes me sad, and mad to think I waisted my time falling for someone who didn't want me fully or completely. HE was NOT my list.  We ended it, or well I did.

I continued to pray on my list. Then a dear friend of mine passed away.  He was an amazing man, and had the best advice.  When I divorced my husband, he told me to chase after my dreams.  So, the very next day, I started to search for my best friend from college.  Sure enough, there he was. On FaceBook.  I sent him a friend request and then a note. I knew it was him! I got so excited, because he knows me and I just needed a friend, someone who got me for every odd part of who I am. Someone who cared for me even when I was heavy. My BFF, Phillip, was at lunch with his co-workers when he received my note. He saw it and started to tear up.  His co-workers asked him if he was ok, and he said... it is Melissa. They got upset and wanted to know what SHE did now. He said, not her... it is my best friend from college. I have been looking for her for years... (long story short, his ex-wife and I have the same name. Yeah, I know it is crazy... especially when you are having sex and he says "OH MELISSA" for the first time, you really have to stop and think... is he thinking about HER or me? then you giggle and realize that it must be you. YOU are the hot sexy one. Then, when you realize he loves you, you should never doubt his words.)    We started talking all the time and rebuilding our friendship.  It picked up where it left  off and it was easy.  I went on a trip to Boston with some of my best girls, and I asked them if I could have there permission to date Phillip (because CLEARLY I had done such a GREAT job in the past picking a man) and they gave me their blessing.  Phillip and I went on our first date after that. Phillip has two step children and a daughter.  I have two children and while dating, we lived 4 hours apart. We would travel back and forth to see each other for a weekend. I will never forget having horrible pneumonia and he was at my house for Thanksgiving with his daughter and he took care of me. As he was carressing my forehead he said, "I would rather spend every day of my life doing this versus not having you. Will you marry me?" and without hessitation, I said yes. He is my list. He is everything I dreamed of in a partner. And for that, I am truly blessed.

My kids range in age from 2 to 20.  My son is eight, my daughter is two. My step daughter is my child from another mother. She lives with us and I am her mama, and I love that. My husband's step daughter lives with her mom but visits us often, because my husband is her daddy, and my step son is an adult. He is 20 and lives on his own, I don't know him as well as the other kids.

So, as every day of my life is cluttered and jumbled with activities, cooking, working (I work from home), I remember it is ok.  Organized chaos works. I love my crazy life... and I welcome you to it.