Lucky Seven Family

Step-Momming — please remember you are the adult!

When my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer, my family was told she had six months to live .  She came home from the hospital and chemotherapy ensued.  Given my parent’s expectations, they identified a home health aid to be available for my mother.  Given her strength, fortitude, and the loving care of her friends and family, Momma defied the odds; she managed the chemotherapy like a champ. Given how well Momma was fighting, after about six months, the home health aid was helping more with household items like laundry and groceries than taking care of Momma’s health needs (so lucky we had some healthy times with her!).  I was 18 years old at the time; a freshman in college.  I took my second semester of my freshman year off to be at home given the prognosis we initially received.  During this time, I was a complete brat (or substitute some other word here) to Lillie Mae, the home health aid.  In all honesty, I was just plain MEAN.  She didn’t do the laundry like my mom did.  She didn’t buy the same brands at the grocery store that my mom did.  So, what did I do – gave her the cold shoulder and talked ugly about her to anyone that would listen, including my mom.

Why I am telling you this?  To get your attention! And…

Because I think this relationship is analogous to the step-mom/step-child relationship in many ways…

Lillie Mae was the target of my anger and frustration.  Any sane person can quickly see though, that Lillie Mae was not whom I was really angry or frustrated with, right? I was angry and frustrated that my mom had cancer! And, that I had no control over what was happening.  Lillie Mae was the easiest target… she was new to our family and I didn’t have a personal relationship with her.

Think about it!  What does a child go through when their parents split up? when someone new shows up in their home?  They are angry, frustrated, and realize they don’t have control over what is happening.  A new person  in the home is the perfect target.  That new person is often the new partner of either parent.  This does not make bad behavior excusable; it still has to be dealt with.  However, I hope this analogy will help you think about HOW you deal with it.  Perhaps your first step will be considering where the child is coming from; their life has been significantly impacted.  Also, I’ll make the point that I was not a five year old when I was so difficult with Lillie Mae; I was 18 years old!  So, this pertains to teenagers as well, maybe even more so.

As the adult in the relationship, we have to put the child’s feelings first. It isn’t easy.  When you aren’t being treated with respect, you get an eye roll, or the cold shoulder, just put yourself in the child’s (or teen’s) shoes and remember that as the new person, you are their easiest target.  Take a deep breath, count to 10, and don’t take it personally.

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Nerissa’s 100th Birthday Celebration

Locanda Cugnanello, Tuscany, Italy — Sunrise

cugnanello-sunset

I just spent a week in Tuscany with Jen Pastiloff at a Manifestation retreat.  Jen is a yogi and beauty hunter (www.jenniferpastiloff.com).  Her retreats are so much more than yoga; they are about creating magic.  Mixing yoga moves in with writing prompts, Jen gently guides us to become vulnerable and release the deep fears, shame, or hatred for ourselves that we carry.  I have attended three of her retreats and they are all different depending on the location, the attendees, and most importantly where your heart and mind are in that time of your life.

Our location in Tuscany was full of ever-changing colors and light.  We were housed in a magnificently renovated farmhouse and nourished by loving staff with Tuscan recipes – fresh-baked croissants filled with homemade marmalade, Tuscan bean soup, focaccia, house-made pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms (“giggle food” as my husband and I refer to it).

To celebrate our time together, the last writing assignment was to “describe your own 100th birthday party celebration:  the location, the party theme, and a speech or toast as well as who speaks to you”.  Each of us stood in the waning light of the day, outside Locanda Cugnanello, and read our tale to all of our new found loves.

We are in Corolla, one of the towns in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It is October and the night sky comes early in the evening.  The days remain warmly bathed in sunshine and the evenings provide a crisp, clean breeze on our skin.  We’ve gathered at our beach home where we have spent more than 55 years together; celebrating summer vacations, New Year’s Eve, and countless other special days.  Nerissa is surrounded by her 5 children; 2 biological and 3 from her marriage to Russell.  They have all married and have children of their own.  There are also 2 great-grandchildren that run from the house to the ocean to splash in the waves. 

Gathered on the top deck of the house; always Nerissa’s favorite place to read and relish her coffee in the morning and a glass of Vernaccio rosé in the evening.  The celebration starts with a Prosecco and a toast given by the five children:

Alida (Nerissa’s oldest step-daughter):  Nerissa, we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, (laughing) probably because we are both so strong-minded; please know that I love and appreciate everything you taught me about life.

Alex (Nerissa’s oldest child):  Mom, thank you for always believing in me and helping me find a way to follow my passions.

Sam (Nerissa’s step-son):  Thank you for taking interest in me and listening to me.  

Elaina (Nerissa’s daughter; named after Nerissa’s mother Elaine):  You have lived a full life Mim (Elaina’s name for Nerissa since she was 10 years old)! You’ve shared all of yourself and also your mother with us; her snickerdoodle tradition at Christmas will always be carried on.

Cassie (Nerissa’s youngest step-daughter):  Thank you for helping me balance my world by adding a feminine touch to everything, yet always making sure you taught us girls we could do anything.

THANK YOU FOR 100 YEARS OF YOU!! WE LOVE YOU!

100th-bday

 

Traveling – Give Kids Ownership of the Trip

In my last post, I summarized our LuckySevenFamily tips for traveling with a blended family (or any group of kids really!).

Today’s post focuses on Tip #1:  Give Kids Ownership of the Trip

We assigned each child a city where we would travel – 5 kids, 5 cities:  Paris, Nice, Florence, Venice and Rome.  Each spent some time before the trip reading about their respective cities, identifying places in the city they would like to visit, recommending restaurants that we should try, and providing historical tidbits they learned.

We also had the kids participate in navigation throughout our trip.  Figuring out how to buy a Metro ticket, determining which train we should hop on based upon the directional maps available, and navigating the train stations to understand what track (binario in Italian) we should go to for our train between Paris and Nice.

These skills not only provide me the reassurance that when the first child asks to spend a year abroad or study abroad for a summer they will know some basics.  These skills grow the kids’ confidence in their abilities, expand their minds by providing a new challenge, and develop their maturity to use teamwork to solve issues.

Our trip to Europe was a fantastic growth opportunity for all!

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Travel with Blended Families

So hoping this is true!!

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Traveling with Teens and Tweens

Five energetic and opinionated kids, two highly motivated parents, seven suitcases stuffed full with two weeks worth of clothes and shoes and backpacks for all on a two week trip to France and Italy.  This summer, Lucky Seven Family spent the longest consecutive time together in all of our seven years!! We traveled on planes, trains and in automobiles to Paris, Nice, Tuscany and Rome.  And… it was AMAZING!!

What are Lucky Seven Family’s travel tips for making a blended family vacation with five teens and tweens a success?

  1.  Give kids ownership of the trip — involve them in the planning.  Have them identify places they would like to visit, learn and share historical tidbits, and find typical foods of the region to sample
  2.  Strike a balance between activities and downtime — tired teens and parents are not a good mix! Sleep in, allow for changes in the itinerary, and individual re-fueling time (books, electronic games)
  3.  Be prepared to split up — everyone has different interests… take advantage of this and separate occasionally.  This allows for the kids to have a break from one another and an added benefit is growth in parent/step-parent relationships with the kids
  4.   Stay fueled up — hotels in Europe often have free breakfast included; take advantage of an early morning meal to energize the day and the other bonus is it is one meal you don’t have to walk to or pay for!
  5.   Pack water bottles —  Italy is HOT! in July — each day we filled reusable water bottles and carried them in a shared backpack and re-filled throughout the day
  6.   Relax! Smile, laugh, and enjoy — be silly, dance, do cartwheels, make jokes — release the expectations and adopt some of the kids’ silly sayings and behaviors.  Appreciate every moment of the trip as a learning experience for all!

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EUROPE!!

We recently traveled for 2 weeks in France and Italy with Lucky Seven Family.  This was the longest we had all spent together on any vacation given our creative way of living in two cities (Burlington, VT and Reading, MA).

I’ll be writing about our adventures over the next few weeks/months as we had so many great experiences and learnings!

Here’s a sneak peek of our dinner at Giarrosti Fiorentino in Rome, Italy – a favorite restaurant of mine that I enjoyed sharing with Lucky Seven Family!

cropped Giarrosti family photo

Our first stop… Paris!

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More Travel Tips! Realistic Expectations

The entire Lucky Seven Family is excited for our trip to Europe! Our packing lists are complete and we are furiously reading our travel books!

We are going to be together for 2 weeks — together, together! On the plane (6+ hours!), in hotels, on the train and in a packed mini-van.  In our “normal” lives, at any one time we don’t spend more than about 3 days together, mostly weekends.  The kids are fantastic together but it will be an adjustment for them to be in tight quarters (European hotels are not known for their size!) for this period of time.

In anticipation of everyone needing some time apart, Russell and I are already planning some separate trips with various “kid combos”.  We will spend some time with our own children and other times we will split up based on interests (the one I’m most excited about? shopping with the girls!!).

Setting realistic expectations for the trip and for our family will allow us “permission” to do what we know is best for Lucky Seven Family.  Sometimes our vision of the perfect blended family leads to unrealistic expectations – we will allow ourselves to do what works for our family and savor every moment of the journey!

Sticking with the TRAVEL theme this week!!

Hoping our children learn from our travels… taking chances is important!!

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Traveling!

We have a great trip for LuckySevenFamily planned this summer!  Getting so excited for the trip!

To engage our kids in the planning, we’ve given each of them a destination city to investigate and make a list of places they’d like to go in that city.  For example, a cafe, a chocolatier, a museum, or some other tourist attraction.  Recently, I worked on this with our youngest.  We used YouTube and found lots of cool videos about her city!  She enjoyed watching the videos more than reading websites and it definitely kept her engaged longer!

Can’t wait for a great trip!!