Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.
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Published on June 19, 2012
Eva left for France this morning.
My oh my.
What a sophisticated, polished and poised young lady she has become, dressed in her cute sundress, gold slip ons, hair in a neat chignon. Aside from her North Face jacket, she could pass for a Parisian.
And what a relaxed, calm and less emotional mother I have become. After her trip last summer to Spain where she had her passport stolen and was stranded unchaperoned in Madrid overnight when her flight home was canceled, you could say I have been “initiated.” I was much more at ease this time around and it was reassuring that Eva is not traveling alone. She is escorted by her friend and her older sister who is attending college in Tours.
Yesterday was Eva’s 16th birthday and we celebrated in typical American teenager fashion with waffles for dinner followed by a cookie dough ice cream cake. And to think tomorrow she may be dining on escargot and eclairs. She will be gone for six weeks. When she comes home, her life will never be the same. How can you keep the kid down home in Santa Cruz after she’s seen Paris?
Published on June 3, 2012
Eva leaves for France in a few weeks and will be gone most of the summer. She will be traveling with her friend, Mary, and they will be staying with Mary’s older sister, Ruby in a small town outside of Paris.
Sometimes I wonder if I am insane to allow my just turned 16-year-old daughter to travel to Europe, but I realize that I cannot hold my daughter back because ever since she was little, Eva has always had wanderlust. Recently I came across an essay she wrote in middle school about her desire to see the world when she grows up. She is living true to her dream. Good for her.
Eva is an adventurer who has always asserted her independence. When she was in first grade she insisted on riding her bike to school. Alone. I let her. Little did she know I followed her, running and hiding behind bushes to make sure she got to school safely. I won’t be able to do that this summer. I just have to have faith that all of the self-defense classes I made her take won’t ever come in handy.
As my children reach adulthood, I have come to accept that there is no holding them back. It helps that the older kids have, in some way, blazed trail and have been positive role models. Ruby was a foreign exchange student in France her senior year in high school and upon graduation, decided to stay in France to attend college, which is what Eva hopes to do. Ruby has been her mentor and inspiration. Eva will graduate from high school a year early and plans to apply to Rotary to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country. She is unsure where she intends to attend college, but I will not be surprised if she ends up in Europe. And to think my mother wept when I moved from New Jersey to California. Thank heavens for email and Skype.
Published on May 18, 2012
Once again, we are planning a trip back East this summer. Sophia, Cheryl and I are headed to New Jersey to attend my nephew’s wedding. (Eva is not coming since she will be in France.) We will have a few extra days for sight seeing, that is when we are not touring the winery where the wedding will be held, or heading to the beaches. I thought it would nice this time to take in a few touristy attractions and fun things to do in Central Jersey, since it has been a long time since I have lived there.
I’m interested in visiting the Thomas Edison Memorial Center at the Menlo Park Museum. This is where Edison had a prolific burst of inventive creativity and patented over 400 inventions including the phonograph, devices for electric light and power generation. (Paul, my engineer husband, will be sorry to miss that one.) I have to confess that in all the years I lived in Central New Jersey, and drove through the town of Edison, New Jersey, I have never been to visit this museum. I think I was too busy working and commuting to work that I never took the time. Now that I am a parent, I see the value in teaching children about local history.
Another educational stop I would like to make is at the East Brunswick Museum, which is located in the historic village of Old Bridge. The museum is set in an old Methodist church that was built in 1862 and it collects and preserves all of the local history including area artifacts, documents, household and personal items portraying the heritage of the area.
I think both museums will offer us a rich taste of the history of Central New Jersey.
Published on May 14, 2012
Yesterday’s Mother’s Day celebration at the Shwanda household definitely ranked as Number #1 in my book. For one, I got to celebrate with my step kids, as well as my daughters, and that was really special.
Sophia and Eva, my girls, made me homemade waffles for breakfast. Cheryl, my step daughter, was at a sleepover. When she got home I took the three girls out for tea. (Mark did not want to go, understandably. He stayed home and watched the Giant’s game with Paul.) We went to a lovely new tea room that just opened up in Santa Cruz. Very Zen. Soft music, various teas that were served with various temperatures of water. (Apparently it makes a difference.) After the server gave us the lecture on no WiFi, cell phones, iPads, laptops or any electronic devices, as if on cue, my cell phone rang. I was about to ignore it when I saw the caller was Sam, my oldest step son calling me from the Navy!!! I leaped across the restaurant to run outside so I could talk. I was so touched I almost wept with joy, but I didn’t dare for fear that he would think I was a weirdo and swear off calling me ever again. His call was especially poignant for me since he and I haven’t always seen eye to eye over the years and have butted heads on a number of occasions. That he had the thoughtfulness to call me meant the world to me.
When we got home, there was a bouquet of roses and a lovely note waiting for me from Paul who had made us dinner. Cheryl gave me a beautiful hand made card thanking me for my generosity and telling me that I’m a great step mom. I beamed.
Yesterday was indeed the best (Step) Mother’s Day ever.
Published on May 7, 2012
I flew up to Portland on Friday to help Sophia pack up her dorm room, put some of her belongings in storage and lug the rest her stuff home in four large suitcases. We managed to accomplish this in under two hours, which gave us a a lot time to hang out in her empty dorm room eating the sandwiches and snacks I packed and reflect on her first year away from home in college. We talked about all kinds of things, but mostly about her academics and I couldn’t help but beam with pride at her continued intellectual growth and development this past year.
Paul was delayed in picking us up from the airport due to traffic. Since we had time to kill, I gave Sophia some money to buy a magazine thinking she would come back with a copy of People that I would surreptitiously read over her shoulder because I just love to hear all about those Kardashians (sarcasm). Instead, I was surprised to see her return with a copy of the Economist. As if reading my thoughts she explained, “I know, the Economist. It cost $7 bucks, but I just couldn’t bear to read one more thing about Khloe Kardashian’s baby weight. By the way, do you get the New York Times?”
Our college girl is home.
Published on March 1, 2012
Eva, my world traveler, is heading to France this summer for 6 weeks. We just booked her ticket. She will be traveling with a friend who is visiting her older sister who attends college in Tours. They will be staying in a small town about an hour’s train ride from Paris. She is so excited. She and her friend are planning their itinerary, which includes visits to the Louvre, the Loire Valley and dining with some local families.
As you may recall, last summer Eva spent a month in Spain, where she studied at the Segre University in Granada. Her father and I find it remarkable that she has developed such a zest for foreign travel at such a young age. She once told me, dreamily, “Mom, I want to see the world.” She also said when she hears people speaking in another language she gets frustrated when she can’t understand them. Her Spanish is getting pretty good and she is now learning French from an App she downloaded onto her iPhone. She plans to graduate from high school a year early and apply through Rotary to be a foreign exchange student in a Spanish speaking country.
You go girl. And to think my mother freaked out when I moved from Philadelphia to New York City. Times sure have changed.
Published on January 25, 2012
My daughter Sophia left for college a few weeks ago. She was home for winter break for about a month and it was so wonderful having her here. We made cookies, and gingerbread houses, got our nails done, went out to lunch and the movies, went to the beach, finished a sewing project, took a trip to San Francisco and spent our last day together at the Santa Cruz wharf watching the harbor seals. We sure had a lot of Mommie and Me time together. I was very pleased and impressed with what a sophisticated, articulate and well spoken young lady she had become.
I won’t see her again until May when she gets out of school since she is not planning to come home for Spring break.
Published on October 4, 2011
I’ve been asked to be a contributing blogger to a new site geared toward moms called Parent Society. Here is my first post on a topic that unfortunately, I know a lot about, Queen Bees, Mean Girls and Frenemies.
Published on July 14, 2011
While Eva has been in Spain this past month, Sophia and Cheryl have been spending a lot of time together. Sophia is a very generous, doting big sister to Cheryl. She takes her to the movies, and the pool, but generally, they spend a lot of time just hanging out and talking. I took this photo last week when I came home from work and found them lounging in the back yard hammock. Sophia is on the left playing on her iPhone and Cheryl is on the right, reading a book. So cute. A memorable moment for sure.
Published on June 22, 2011
Last week, on the first official day of summer vacation I promised the girls I would take them to the mall in San Jose (a 40 minute drive from our house and a big event) and Eva was lurking around in the kitchen, leaning up against the wall wearing a long face. She had been this way pretty much all morning. So I asked her, (with my late mother channeling through me) “Are you going to mope all day?” She responded, sulkily, “What do you call moping?”
Well now there’s a question. So I wondered, “How exactly does one define the term, “moping.” So I looked it up and here’s what I found. The definition of moping is, “taking up time and space by wearing a bored, blank stare that annoys your mother and makes her crazy.”
OK. I made that one up. Here’s dictionary.com’s defintion. Let’s see how close I am.
verb, moped, mop·ing, noun
1.to be sunk in dejection or listless apathy; sulk; brood.
So I wasn’t that far off except there was no mention of the causes or reasons for said moping. School is out. Summer is here. I’m taking you shopping. You are going to Spain for a month. What is wrong with you?
It is a conundrum every parent of teens faces. Why are our children unhappy when they have everything in the world to be exctited and grateful for? Who knows?
Eva perked up later and I never did get to the bottom of her brooding. Perhaps it was anxiety leading up to her pending separation. I’ll never know. And you know what? Sometimes it’s best that way because the opposite is the child who tells you everything (while whining). I have one of those too.