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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Must Reads for Today’s Successful Blended Families
Published on August 5, 2010
A few weeks ago, Sophia came to me and asked me if she and her friend, Rita could drive to San Francisco, which is 75 miles North of Santa Cruz, to spend the day at Golden Gate Park to picnic and visit some museums. It was Memorial Day weekend and they were looking for an adventure. She and her friend are both 17, actually Sophia was 16 at the time, and I thought about it for a few minutes and said “no.” As in, “no way.” It’s not that I didn’t trust her, I was afraid of the holiday traffic and that they were not experienced enough to drive there by themselves. Sophia’s friend ending up going with her younger sister, Maria, 14 and they had a great time. No accidents or mishaps, no flat tires, no tragedies. Read the rest of this entry »
Published on July 6, 2010
Now that school is out, my girls, Eva and Sophia, have a lot more free time on their hands. They have complained of a little bit of boredom so later this week we plan to hit the beach, catch a movie and maybe drive south to Monterey to visit the aquarium. We also plan to make sand candles and beach beads (made with sand) that will appear in videos later this week on my blogs SeaweedArt and JustImaginate.
In the meantime, the girls have been cooking up a storm. They have made dinner the last two nights and are enjoying thumbing through my cookbooks looking for new recipes to try. Then they go to the store to get the ingredients. They shop, the cook and clean up afterward. Here some photos of their recent masterpieces, lemon cake with marzipan frosting, homemade pizza and potato eggplant curry.
Published on May 21, 2010
There was a spring fair at Eva’s school today and I had no idea. She called me at lunch to ask me if she could go. I vaguely remember getting some emails about donating cookies to a bake sale or buying raffle tickets, but I didn’t pay much attention. Why? Because I don’t care. I’m burnt out. I’ve become one of those moms, the kind I used to deride for “not doing their part.”
I have no guilt about this what- so- ever.
This is a very timely topic for all those 30- ish moms with young kids out there who are still killing themselves to be power moms. I recently had a conversation on this very topic with my newly found cyber mom friend, Carley Knobloch of Mother Craft Coaching, who specializes in helping moms simplify their lives. She teaches busy moms how to apply her “ADD” formula to prioritize their daily tasks. The “A” stands for act, as in act on things you should do right away, like opening and sorting mail before it piles up. The first “D” represents those things you should delegate, like buying the cookies for the spring fair instead of baking them yourself. The final “D” stands for delete and these are all the things you really don’t need to do, like volunteering for everything. I’m in the delete parenting phase of my life right now.
As I told Carley, your lives get much simpler as you and your kids get older. First your kids start to feed themselves, then they go to the bathroom alone, followed by bathing themselves, putting themselves to bed and finally driving, getting jobs and supporting themselves. Along the way you stop obsessing over every activity. You come to terms with the fact that your child is not going to be an Olympic gymnast or professional soccer player after all, and you eventually lose that drive to have it all, do it all and be it all. This usually happens around middle school when your kids don’t want you hanging out at their school anyway. So all you young moms out there, chillax. Take a breather. Savor your babies now because it goes by so fast.
Published on May 4, 2010
While I was out dress shopping with Eva on Saturday, Sophia was at the high school taking her SAT’s. When she finished around 1pm she was starving so she came home and picked up Cheryl to take her to Burger King and then for a ride down to the beach. Sophia treated Cheryl since Cheryl has no money and Sophia has some money from her babysitting job. Sophia is very generous that way. She doesn’t ask to be reimbursed. She is a wonderful big sister. She often treats both Cheryl and Eva to movies and Starbucks. She reminds me of my big sisters, Nina and Pam who were also very good to me. The difference, of course, is that I was born into a family of older sisters. Cheryl was not.
Cheryl once told me that she cried on our wedding day. When I asked her why she said, “I cried tears of joy that I finally had sisters.” Sophia and Eva were not so cheerful that day because at the time they often considered Cheryl to be ”INSANELY ANNOYING!!!” All that has changed. Now, they wear each other’s clothes, trade makeup, ride bikes to the beach, go to the movies, hang out talking in their rooms and do just about everything together. Eva and Cheryl have this ritual every weekend when we are altogether. They pull out Eva’s wipe board and write a weekend “to do” list with tasks such as: (The spelling and parentheses are theirs.)
1. Put lemon juice in our hair and lay out in the sun.
2. Work on our tans.
3. Go to da beach.
4. Partay (not really)
5. Go to D.J.’s and get candy.
6. Create a dance routine.
7. Make a movie of our dance routine.
8. Get a samich at Joe’s
9. Wash Joey
10. Have a picnic on the trampoline.
This is the life of a 12 and 13 year-old. And what a life it is. I always tell them, “Do not ever tell me you didn’t have a wonderful childhood.”
Published on February 15, 2010
The kids all have off from school today in honor of President’s Day and they are all at their other parents’ houses. I was working in my home office when Sophia called me to ask if I would like to go for a walk with her on West Cliff Drive. How sweet to be asked. I said, “Sure.” Now that she’s got wheels she drove over to pick me up and we headed down to the beach for a power walk along the ocean. I always enjoy time alone with each of my kids. And I’m delighted they still want to have anything to do with me.
Published on February 7, 2010
We had a blast of a party today for the Superbowl. We invited all of our favorite people (Hello to C and D if you are reading this.), everyone brought a dish to share (Great pate b-t-w), the kids jumped on the trampoline, played ping pong and everyone took part in the Superbowl pool. The main attraction, however, was the halftime show and I don’t mean Roger Daltry and the Who. No. I mean our son, Mark and his newly formed rock band who performed in our carport and they were GREAT. ( I’m sure everyone in the neighborhood thought so too.) Paul and I were beaming with pride.
A few weeks ago Mark came to us and asked if he and his bandmates could practice at our house. We said yes, but so far they haven’t since there has been an issue with the transportation of the drum set. I guess those things aren’t so easy to tote around. In any case, we were delighted to hear them play. Mark often plays in his room and we listen through the door, but this was the first time we heard his band play together.
I have to say it was a relief that they were good, although I should not have been surprised. Mark has a real passion for music. In fact, just last week he revealed to us that he has no plans to go to college and is actually looking forward to “living the hard scrabble life of his rock idol Slash.” Can’t begin to tell you how comforting it was to hear that. Paul and I took one look at each other and just laughed. Kids, kids, kids. We sat him down on the couch to lecture him on the benefits of going to college and the downside of the hard scrabble life. We certainly didn’t want to talk him out of his dream, especially since he has so much talent, but we wanted to make him understand that in order for him to be in control of his destiny he has to make the choices instead of having choices thrust upon him. We counseled him to do his best in high school and when the time comes to decide about college, he will have a lot more options than someone who slacked off. (His last report card was less than stellar.) If he decides he doesn’t want to go to college then the decision will be his. If he wants to go to college, but can’t get in because of poor grades, then the decision is not his. I made the analogy that it is like going on a job interview you are not sure you want. Go on the interview, give it your best shot and if they offer you the job, then you get to decide if you want it. I think he understood. His driving privileges have been restricted until he pulls up his grades. He’s a smart kid with his head on straight so we are confident he will make the right choices. As for his musical talent: the kid’s got it. If the girls aren’t beating down his door now, they will be soon. And that will be another on-the-couch conversation for sure.
Published on December 7, 2009
This morning while I was cooking breakfast and packing lunches, I reflected back on my life and thought of all the jobs and skills I have learned over the years that have prepared me for my current role of mom/stepmom to five children. I was once a waitress, a bartender, a cashier, a hotel laundress and a chambermaid. One job I never held was that of a short order cook. BUT I AM ONE NOW. I’m also a taxi driver (although not so much now that the three oldest are driving), family therapist (lots of territory covered there), event and party planner, tutor, personal shopper and accountant. Oh, I almost forgot: and cheerleader too. Read the rest of this entry »
Published on October 9, 2009
October 9, 2009 (I’ve decided to start dating my posts.)
Sophia got a car. She had been saving her babysitting and birthday money for months, but she didn’t need to use any of it because her father bought the car for her. He told her she could keep her money to pay for gas and other expenses. She was thrilled. She drove herself to school the other day for the first time and stopped on the way home to get a burrito. What independence. She is enjoying her new found freedom, but not without a little bit of guilt and compassion for her step brother Mark, who is about to turn 16 and does not have enough money saved to buy a car. This leads us to the many common issues and problems in a blended family— fairness and equality. Paul and I, due to the difficult economy, are not in a position to help Mark buy a car and neither is Susie, Mark’s mother. When Sophia realized this she felt bad for her step brother and offered to help him get a car with the money she had saved that she did not need to use to buy her car. What an amazing, generous, thoughtful gesture on her part. We have a third car Mark can use until we can get the money together to help him get a car. In the mean time, it was so nice for Mark to know that his sister was looking out for him.
Published on September 17, 2009
As I mentioned yesterday, Sophia got her license. I am now liberated. I called our insurance company today and had her added to our automobile policy. Then I handed her the car keys and asked her to pick up her sister, Eva from school. Then take Mark to his orthodontist appointment. Then take Eva to soccer. Pick up Eva from soccer. Stop at the store on your way home and get me some eggs. Every time I watch her pull out of the driveway I am giddy with joy. What am I going to do with myself now that I am no longer a slave to the after school pick up, drop off, run to soccer/tutor/orthodontist appointment (with five kids in braces, somebody almost always has an orthodontist appointment) music/dance lesson whirl of activity?
I had a glass of wine and made muffins. I read the latest issue of The New Yorker and Martha Stewart. I didn’t rush through making dinner. I took my time. I relaxed. Sigh…
Published on September 16, 2009
Hallelujah. (Cue the choir.) Jared, her father, and I, took her to the DMV today and waited while she took her test; confident that she would pull it off and SHE ROCKED!!!! Way to go Sophia. It was a right of passage, not only for her, but for us too. I had flashbacks of watching her take her first steps. My baby. My firstborn. Now a “teen driver”. Where did the time go?