Back to School Teacher Gifts

At some point, I got it stuck in my head that I was going to make little gifts for Sierra’s teachers for the first day of school. Yes, I know not everyone does this, yes, I know I don’t have to do it, but once I decided I wanted to do it, and started looking at ideas online, there was no turning back.

While I wasn’t able to make it happen for the 1st day, I thought 2nd day of school gifts would still be special so I made it happen this morning.


After scouring Pinterest and looking at all the teacher gifts I could find, I decided $5 Starbucks gift cards were going to be it. So, all I had to do was print tags, attach them to ribbon and go to Starbucks. I got a $5 gift card for each teacher, and asked for the smallest cups they had with lids, placed the gift cards inside the cups and closed the lids on the ribbon holding everything together beautifully. I literally threw these puppies together in the parking lot and then got to watch S light up as she passed them out. It’s the little things that help me feel like I am “doing it all” even though I am a working mom. These kinds of little things make me feel like I am staying connected even if I have to sit at a desk all day and can’t be there to pick up after school. We each have to do what works for us…

Fellow Blogger Feature: Not The Average Mama

Today I want to feature a fellow stepmommy who, from what I read on her blog, rocks the house as a stepmomma! So happy she is out there spreading the good word about how she approaches her role in her kids’ lives!

Not the Average Mama

Awhile ago I mentioned about blogging for The Huffington Post. I’m not a big star blogger. I have my own little corner here of the blogosphere and I enjoy sharing with all of you!

Today I am going to toot my own horn! *TOOT TOOT* I’ve been a busy lady this month and to add on to my Feel Good Friday — I’m feeling good that my first original blog post was published on The Huffington Post website!

Check it out! Tell me what you think! Next to my bio picture there should be a “Become a Fan” button! Give it a click!

7 Things I Didn’t Know I Was Getting Into as a Stepmom

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Stop Growing Up!

One would think with S being our second child, we would be quite used to this 1st Day of School business but being the secondary house for K, even though she is almost 12, we have never experienced the ritual at all. So, of course, in my standard fashion I started preparing weeks ago… Made sure she had a backpack and lunchbox ready, ordered some bento-style plastic containers for lunch. Went to Costco late last week buying all sorts of lunchbox type snacks for my picky eater. Picked out her outfit weeks ago and stashed it away so it wouldn’t get ruined in the meantime… Rushed around last night cutting her name in vinyl for her backpack and lunchbox (because I could never just use a sharpie).

I packed a lunch that could probably feed 3 toddlers, just in case, to make sure she ate something. I talked her through everything I could possibly think of to prepare her. Is this really happening? I mean, I have always been a working mom but when I have to leave my babies, I am fortunate enough to have family they stay with. We’ve never done a daycare or school drop off before… Tears? Yes, there were many and they were all mine! How can this be happening? Why do they grow up so fast?

The Shady Lane has an adorable free printable First Day of School Sign that was too cute! I bought a white frame that I can use every year as I customize the sign.

 

So here is my big girl… So ready for the adventure ahead! I love that she is so excited when others might be nervous or afraid. She is ready for the world, I just need to catch up!

 

Connecting with a Pre-Teen Girl

I know I am not the first and definitely won’t be the last parent to have trouble connecting with a pre-teen daughter. A little girl who I used to have such a GREAT relationship with slowly morphing into an awkward stranger before my very eyes. I know I must have done the same at her age but I simply don’t recall. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it must be extremely difficult battling the hormones and the feelings, the urge to cry for no reason. After all, I am a girl too, I have a clue. But how to continue a connection, how to keep the lines of communication open, how to ensure she keeps looking to me as someone she can confide in as the stakes rise in the middle school atmosphere? Especially when you consider that the two households this child lives in are so different from each other. And let’s not forget… I’m the stepmom. That holds it’s own special kind of challenge in every situation… So what do I do? In my typical problem-solving fashion, I look to the internet to solve my problems and I stumbled upon Mama Jenn’s blog and her “Mama & Me Journal”  Brilliant!

 

So I bought a notebook with a cute rubber band closure, cut out words in vinyl for the front on my Cricut, and wrote my first journal entry to Kylie. I explained that this was a safe place for us to communicate. She could tell me about her day, ask questions, she could say anything she wanted; it would be just for the two of us! We are only a few letters in but it seems good so far. Nothing too deep has been uncovered but I think we are definitely on to something… I ask a question at the close of each of my notes, asking about school, friends, boys. Trying  to make sure she always has somewhere to turn if something pops up in life. What have you done to keep the connection with your children and stepchildren as they grow older? I am defintiely learning as I go here but I will take any tips I can get!

 

 

 

 

 

One of those Mornings…

So after a long night with a congested, fussy baby who wanted to nurse what seemed like every 5 minutes, I then wake up to a toddler who did not want to get out of bed, didn’t want to wear “that” shirt and wanted to bring every toy she owned to her Mima’s house this morning. Crazy rushing around just so that I can get to work?!?!? And if we are being honest I’m not stoked about having to go there either…. In the moment I think, how can I really not have this all together? By nature I am a planner so how do I have so little control over our mornings? I feel like in theory I know what I need to do… get the four year old to bed earlier. Why is that so much easier said than done? Is she really that stubborn? Or am I doing something wrong? As mothers, aren’t we always second guessing ourselves? 


How do other moms seem to have it all together and I can barely get dinner on the table every night and keep up with the laundry in addition to my full time job and taxi driving of three little ones everyday? I am a problem solver, normally on days like this I get to the Internet searching and try to see what other moms are doing but does the answer really lie in another checklist or process? Questioning everything today… Anyone else have those days?

The Secondary House Misses Out

With school starting this week, it’s always a harsh reminder of the reality of our custody arrangement and how much our household misses out on the day-to-day of K’s life; those moments that you can’t split up in even and odd years in custody court… The first day of school, getting braces on, or getting ready for her first middle school dance. So, the secondary house plays second fiddle and misses out. In our situation at least…

Doesn’t someone always miss out though? The whole concept is splitting a child’s time in two, between two houses, with two families, someone is always bound to miss out on something, right? The “firsts” in life can’t be scheduled… Like losing a tooth, for example. In her whole life she has never lost one at our house. Things like that are not the same as every other year’s Easter schedule.


I have always been so envious of those with amazing blended families who share holidays and can all sit around one table for Thanksgiving… We have unfortunately never had that! I hope for my dear K’s sake that we could get close to that someday but it doesn’t even seem like it’s in the realm of possibility as I write this today. Try as we may it’s just not our situation… Luckily, we at least have gotten to the point where bio mom shares a texted photo on some of these occasions and that itself is leaps and bounds further than where we were eight years ago in the relationship.

After mediation, custody court and countless hours of asking nicely and negotiating directly for more time with her, we have never quite been able to get further than our current situation (two evening visits during the week and every other weekend). So… This is our reality. We have learned to be grateful for the pictures and ask for all the play by play from K on our next visit. No matter how much we may miss out on, we try to focus on what we do have and make the most of that. What do you miss out on in your split custody arrangement?

A Step-Mom was Born

Let’s rewind 9 ½ years… I am 22 years old, met a guy who I really really liked, a couple weeks into dating (I know, I know, how dare he wait so long) he drops a bomb… He is a dad! He has a daughter from a previous relationship, she is two years old and adorable and I love kids so I didn’t give it a second thought. Let’s do this…

Did I picture my wedded bliss beginning as a parent when I was so young myself? No way! But here I was, he was my person and in a million years I wouldn’t have it any other way, this was my journey.


From the beginning and as soon as we were married, I took the approach that I was going to do for little Kylie as I would do for my own kids. I never wanted her to look back on her life and see that I treated her differently than the other kids that I knew I would someday have. Not really sure where this came from other than looking at the relationships other people I knew had with their step-parents. I didn’t come from a broken home, I had no idea what that was, but in what I had been exposed to and with the help of Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, at the very least, I knew what I didn’t want to be as a stepmom.

Now let’s stop for a reality check here — This is NOT a popular approach to step-parenting. Bio mom, her family and friends were NOT my biggest fans. She felt I overstepped and who knows what else but this was the only way I could approach being a step-mom. I was an all-in 110% person… And I intended to be that in my role of stepmom. I never tried to take her mother’s place but I knew amongst everything else going on in life that one day when I had my own kids that I was going to be a cheerleading coach, a PTA mom, room mom and team mom. I am a volunteer by nature, that was the person I was, and if I knew I would be those things to my future kids, I needed to be them for Kylie too; whether everyone around us liked it or not. If as an adult, Kylie knew that I had treated her as I did my own, that to me was the definition of a successful step-parent and that is what I set out to do.

So, I did… I was her cheerleading coach for five years, served on the PTA for two years and was room mom one year. Again – this definitely did not win me any popularity contests. It didn’t seem that many thought “oh great look how involved Kylie’s stepmom is in her life”. I had my fair share of dirty looks and rude people who were on bio mom’s “side” of the equation.

With a hubby who worked construction with an extremely un-predictable schedule, I experienced more than my share of awkward situations (especially if hubby was working and late or couldn’t be there). I refused to take the easy road and just excuse myself. I showed up to every dance recital, parent teacher conference and talent show even when it was going to be awkward and difficult. I often told myself I would go especially because it would be difficult, I told myself that was the best possible example I could set for Kylie – Do what you think is right, even when you are going to be criticized for it. Everything I did was with the end result in mind, a family dynamic where all of my children have me as a present parent every step of the way.

These years as a stepmom have been filled with joy, tears, drama, and so much more. I have learned so much about parenting and about myself and I have such a huge appreciation for the relationship that Kylie and I have built without having the immediate bond that I experienced in birthing my biological children. We have had to create this love, this bond and I am happy to say we have it. Is our family dynamic perfect? Not a chance! Have I been without any weak moments or questionable decisions? No way! We still have bumps along the way and step-parenting a preteen girl is not easy but I expect being a biological parent to a preteen girl isn’t a walk in the park either? I’m not there yet as a bio mom but from what I hear, the waters are rough when the hormones start regardless of the bloodline… As a mommy of three girls, I guess I just need to get used to that part! How do you approach your role as a step-parent?

Put those Kids to Work!

It was a long time coming; it was finally time to put these kids to work! With the oldest being 11 and only living in our house part-time there were some obvious concerns with putting chores in place. Was it fair to make her “work” when she should be enjoying her time with us and her sisters part-time? Obviously her chores would only be done the days she was in our home, so what could you really assign? Need I even mention the evil stepmother concept?

Ultimately, hubby and I decided that what was best for all of our girls was to be treated equally. Just because K was only with us part-time didn’t mean she didn’t need to help out. Easiest way to approach this change in our day to day was to put some hard and fast expectations out there. Included in this, of course was the 3 year old. So I got to work on a list of age-appropriate “chores” for both kids and our Chore Charts were born!


After tons of internet searching… I put together these magnetic chore charts; they live on the side of the refrigerator and each day they start them anew and completion of these chores ultimately means they can have screen time that evening (Movies, TV, iPad). Obviously homework comes first, then chores then screen/play time and some nights, not everything gets done but it’s the order in which things happen. Most of the time, it works.

I loved the concept I saw on another bloggers post (so sorry I can’t remember which) that called these tasks the “ways I contribute to my family”. Loved this concept! We all contribute to our family and these charts show the kids’ contributions.

Do your little ones have chores?

Breast is Best, Right?

Breastfeeding…. Such a loaded topic for some. The guilt, the stress, and it’s not always an easy task. I am forever jealous of those who it comes easily for because with both kids, it was a huge undertaking. 

With little Sierra, four short years ago, I was unable to get her to latch. After many attempts and many lactation consultants’ help, I started pumping while still in the hospital. Still hoping not to give up on the breastfeeding concept, I was finger feeding her for the whole first week of her life (finger feeding = syringe full of pumped milk attached to a tube taped to my finger, baby latches to my finger and drinks milk through the tube). I was told doing this would keep her used to skin contact and I could keep trying to get her to latch…. So, I kept trying!


After a week of a frustrated baby, a few more trips to see lactation consultants, and a syringe that no longer held enough milk for one feeding, I made the decision to exclusively pump. I introduced a bottle and began on my 10 month voyage as an exclusive pumper. Such a hard decision to make! I was guilted by lactation professionals and really what felt like the world around me but I had to make the best decision for my baby and for me, and I couldn’t keep trying to force something that wasn’t working for her. 

So, I religiously pumped every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day for 10 very long months! It was NOT easy! I had guilt about not being able to breastfeed, but I knew breastmilk was best so I wouldn’t give up. I was going to do what was best for my baby… Was it convenient? No way! Did meetings at work get in the way of my schedule? All the time! Was it tough to juggle pumping, feeding baby and washing so many pump parts and bottles, yes! I got really good at pumping in public, sometimes in the most hilarious places. But hey, a mamas gotta do what a mamas gotta do! 


And then there was my supply… I learned quickly that no matter how rigid my pumping schedule, whether or not I ate oatmeal and took supplements, I was not a big producer. From the get-go I essentially produced exactly the amount of milk baby needed, so the minute she needed a bit more, I had to start supplementing. I was power pumping, reading everything I could get my hands on, and I just didn’t quite have enough milk. Oh the stress of not having enough! But I tried to keep reminding myself that she was still getting mostly breastmilk and it was better than nothing! I knew from everything I read that a pump doesn’t remove milk as efficiently as a baby and I had to keep up the hard work to keep my supply in line with what baby needed. Nonetheless, I had to supplement here and there from about a month old, until my pump and I broke up when she was 10 months old. It was a long journey and it was so hard but I take pride in what I was able to provide for my little one.

I strongly believe that each mommy needs to decide what’s best for her baby and herself, after all, we need to make it out alive too! So no judgement here of those who don’t jump through the hoops I did and props to those who did that and more!

I am 5 1/2 months into a completely different breastfeeding journey with baby Aviana. In the hospital, right away, she latched! I wanted so badly for this experience to be different and it was! Not to say that made it a walk in the park (although not having the excessive washing of bottles and pump parts was pretty nice) but I had my share of bleeding nipples and the like. Not to mention my supply still wasn’t quite enough, even with baby exclusively breastfeeding. 

So a few weeks in, supplementing began again. Most days it was only a couple of ounces of formula she needed and when I went back to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, my pump and I started our affair again, this time a much more limited one. 


No two breastfeeding journeys are alike and every baby is different! I would be lying if I said I had never wondered if I could have done a better job or tried harder to get baby #1 to latch but I can’t go backwards, I can only move forward and remember that I did the best I could with what I had at the time. 

This is my breastfeeding journey… Tell me yours! 

My Mommy Story

I am a full-time working mommy of three wonderful little girls – Kylie, 11 ~ Sierra, 4 ~ Aviana, 5 months. My most favorite of the many hats I wear everyday is the hat of Mommy!

My mommy story began eight years ago when I married my dear hubby and became Kylie’s step-mommy. Navigating life as a step-mom has not always been a walk in the park, as many of you may know, but I will say that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Four years ago we were blessed with little miss Sierra and then again five months ago with my little Valentine, Aviana. Our family is now officially complete and life as a mom of 3 is complete chaos and I absolutely love every minute of it, even when I feel like a crazy person!


I will be using this blog as a way to document my journey as a mom – hacks to make life easier, stumbles and struggles along the way… If I can help even just one mommy feel more normal, I have done what I came to do.