St. Patrick’s Day! @LuckySevenFamily is taking over the @nobullshitmotherhood Instagram page!
We’ll be sharing our @JayPeak ski trip weekend; giving you the dirt on being a #blendedfamily and specifically, a #mom and #stepmom!
“And yet my identity… exists in a complex matrix of inter-generational love and loss, colored by what I remember of my own mother’s life and death, and complicated by the survival techniques I relied on afterward to manage on my own. My relentless self-sufficiency, my fear of dying young, my love of all things predictable and safe…”
This passage is taken from Hope Edelman’s book, Motherless Mothers (Edelman, Hope. Motherless Mothers.Harper, 2006).
I have had this book on my nightstand for months. I finally opened it today; not sure I was ready to face what she had to say about raising children as a mother without a mother. Having read her first book, Motherless Daughters, I knew her words would resonate with me, some soothing my mind and others raising doubts and fears that perhaps my parenting has been adversely impacted by my loss.
Russell and his ex-wife have a very set schedule that we rarely sway from. They alternate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every year with the following schedule:
Christmas Eve 5pm to noon on Christmas day (Parent #1)
Christmas Day noon to 8am the following day (Parent #2)
The week b/w Christmas and New Year’s (Parent #1)
Santa visits each home separately and there is very little, if any, coordination of gift planning. Even with that, there are usually not too many duplicate gifts to deal with so that is helpful! Russell plans a decadent Christmas meal each year and either has that for Christmas Eve dinner or for Christmas Day dinner. One year dinner was lobster and steak – talk about yummy! His brussel sprouts are to die for too!
His children participate in a church nativity scene each year on Christmas Eve and being the dedicated dad that he is, he always attends their play whether he has them for Christmas Eve or not.
So, when do Russell and I exchange gifts and celebrate our Christmas together? Based upon the different schedules we usually either have a little quiet time together on Christmas Eve or late on Christmas night. Our first focus is on our children and families; whether that means we are separate with them or we are all together as LUCKY SEVEN FAMILY. Regardless, we always find time to enjoy an hour or two of quiet time and celebrate together.
Over the years, I’ve realized that putting pressure on ourselves to make our crazy lives “perfect” is NOT the goal. Happiness and contentment is the goal; for us and for our children. Thus, no matter when it is that we can bake cookies, open gifts, share a Christmas meal, we always make sure that everyone in LUCKY SEVEN FAMILY knows that our Christmas is about fun, love and gratitude. It may take some extra planning but in the end we are building a strong family with ties that will last for many, many years.
It’s late, but Happy Holidays to all of you!! Hoping our experiences help you in making your experience positive ones!
It’s New Year’s Eve and I am finally getting my post about Christmas written! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays to you all! No matter what you celebrate at this time of year, blended family life can be tough for parents and children alike. Lucky Seven Family’s holiday schedule goes something like this:
Nerissa & her kids: My ex- and I have an UN-written agreement that we will always stay in our home town for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Typically, one parent gets Christmas Eve and then we all meet up at the other parent’s home for Christmas Day. We let Santa know each year which house he should deliver gifts to and lucky for us, he obliges! Ho, Ho, Ho!! On Christmas morning we have breakfast together; typically sausage & cheese balls (yum!), egg casserole, and sweet rolls! We then share in the fun of watching the kids opening their Santa gifts and gifts from us. The last couple of years we’ve each made vacation plans with the kids; last year Russell and I took the kids to our home in OBX and this year, my ex- took the kids to visit his family in St. Louis. These family vacations are important to both of us so flexibility prevails! We have altered our schedules a bit and the parent that was not taking the kids on vacation was with the kids on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was celebrated at their home. Here’s what is so great about our ability to do Christmas together — the kids see a healthy dynamic between everyone and feel the love from all of the adults in their lives.
For fun, here is our favorite sausage and cheese ball recipe (this is a favorite from my childhood when we would have Christmas breakfast with my mother’s family…)
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 lb. sausage (bulk – we like Jimmy Dean)
3-4 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded (shred cheese yourself, the pre-shredded cheeses tend to be too dry & use more the cheesier you like things!)
Mix all ingredients together (hint: let the sausage & cheese come to room temp before you try to mix) & shape into 1 inch balls.
Preheat oven to 400F and bake for ~15 minutes.
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.
Locanda Cugnanello, Tuscany, Italy — Sunrise
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!
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!
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?
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!