Lucky Seven Family

Category Archives: Tuesday Tips

Tuesday Tips: “That’s Not Fair!!”

Children like things to be fair! How many times as a parent have you heard “It’s not fair!” related to some grievance your children have suffered either at your hands or perhaps their siblings?! One of our constant battles is who gets the front seat (for the kids that are old enough and weigh enough, of course! Safety first!) or who sits where in the mini-van.

On our recent Lucky Seven Family trip to Hawaii, the kids immediately started arguing over who was entitled to the two captain’s chairs in the middle row and which three kids had to share the back. Then, the three kids sharing the back argued over who got the middle position! You can imagine the reasons they all created to support their preferred seating position in the car. The older two kids were “too big to share the backseat” or just felt they were entitled given their birth order! The youngest girl argued that she ALWAYS got relished to the back just because she is tiny. Their negotiations with one another were interesting to listen to but after a while we really just needed them to all take a seat so we could get to the beach!

So, I devised a simple system – every time we had to pack up the clan in the van, I would choose a number between XX and YY (I always varied it just for my own entertainment!). Then the kids chose a number in the range and whomever was closest got to choose their seat first with the game continuing until they all had a seat. It only took a few minutes and no one could argue it wasn’t fair; they were indeed in control of choosing their own number that determined their seating fate. By a day or two into the trip, the kids were asking for the numbers game on our way to van!

This will be our go-to plan for mini-van seating from now on!

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Live the moment!

Recently, we spent the Thanksgiving holiday break with LuckySevenFamily in Maui – what an amazing trip!  We were there for 7 sun-filled days.  Prior to going, we had developed a mental checklist of all the things we wanted to do while there:  surfing, boogie-boarding, snorkeling, swimming, etc.  Once there, one of the kids requested to see black sands beaches.  This request led us on one of our most amazing adventures of the week – “The Road to Hana”.   Hana is on the east side of Maui and the journey there is filled with rain forest, waterfalls, and black sands beaches.  The day was a long one; driving on this narrow, winding road with five kids in a mini-van!  We stopped multiple times for breaks – banana bread at a road-side stand, photo ops of waterfalls at various spots and look-out points with unbelievable views.

Although we often fall into a mindset of planning every moment, this day trip reminded me that leaving room to “live the moment” is really important in a family.  First, the suggestion and request to see a black sands beach came from one of the teenagers.  Second, we used the entire day for this trip, even though before arriving in Maui we had not even considered such an adventure.

Vacation needs to be just that! Don’t over-think the entire trip.  Leave room for spontaneity! Take suggestions from the kids – they are forming and testing their own thoughts and opinions – this idea from our son led us to one of the best days for our entire family!  Although the vacation generally will stand out in their memories of family trips with LuckySevenFamily, this day will be paramount in their minds given the beautiful scenery and great family bonding!

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Travel Tips

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday period, I’m thinking about our travel plans.  What are LuckySevenFamily’s best travel tips for a blended family??

1.  Water bottles and snacks are a must have – hungry or thirsty kids make for cranky travelers!

2.  Headphones for all!  Color-coded makes it even better – see my previous post on organizing in a blended family (www.luckysevenfamily/?p=192)

3.  Speaking of headphones – for a long car or plane ride make sure everyone has at least one movie downloaded that was THEIR choice!

4.  Have a few non-electronic games to play as well — math flashcards, Uno, license plate game, our favorite:  “where will you be in XXX years?”

5.  Give each kid a chance to choose something — kids love to feel they were involved in decision making and also feel that their voices matter!

Since it is Thanksgiving season — one thing on our list for travel is to have each child share something they are thankful for.  They each have lots to be thankful for.  For me, one of my top items will be LuckySevenFamily!!

 

 

The Name Change – “I do” or “I don’t”??

When you choose to re-marry, you are making a commitment to many new things in life.  I’ve committed to taking something new; my husband’s name.  At face value, I have no issue with being Nerissa Beste.  In fact, I love the idea of taking Russell’s name.  Perhaps it is the romantic soul in me, but taking his name will demonstrate outwardly what we have committed to one another.  Yet, life is not always about what we want; sometimes, there are others we must consider.

We have been married for more than one year and I still have not gone through the steps to change my name.  One part of me says it is just related to the time it takes and the organization of all the paperwork.  But, the other part of me knows that my children will be affected.  Currently, I share their last name (I took my first husband’s last name when we married).  Sharing a last name makes it easier on my children; there are fewer explanations to be made when you have a mom with your last name.  I know it is something my daughter has considered because she has mentioned it in conversation.  I do love that she is so comfortable to express her thoughts and feelings about sensitive topics with me; it bodes well for her pubertal years!  If I listen to my heart, it is her words that are really holding me back.  Her concern is that we will no longer share something that is part of her identity; of course, she didn’t say it that way but that is what she explained to me in her ten-year old words.

So, how do I rectify this – Russell is wonderful in that he has never pushed the issue.  Despite this, it does weigh on me.  He has never asked me to change my name but I know it is what he wants.  And, it is what I decided to do when we got our marriage license!

Sometimes, I wish I had never changed my name when I was first married.  My daughter would have already faced the fact that we had different names; perhaps it would not have been an issue for her if she had grown up not knowing anything different.  The cynic in me would suggest to any new bride that she keep her maiden name as there is a 50:50 possibility that she will face separation and divorce and have to deal with the name issue anyway!  But, don’t forget, I have a very strong romantic side.  It’s hard to think one should make a decision about their name based on considering a negative outcome like divorce.

Ultimately, legally, I have to do it; I put it on my marriage license!  So, what does that mean?  It means, I need to take the time to do it.  To do the paperwork, but more importantly, to have the conversation with my sweet daughter that clearly has the same romantic soul as me.

What will I do?  I will explain to her, that a name is not what makes us who we are.  Our family is not a conventional family; what makes us who we are will never be a name.  What makes us, will be our love for each other and the bonds we build over the years.  I hope she will understand; if not now, later. Later, when she is dealing with the same question of what to do when she ties the knot!

 

 

Leaves

Yesterday in a Yoga-lates (what is that?!? Yoga-lates is a combination of yoga and pilates) class the instructor was provided imagery during the Savasana pose (a reclining, relaxation pose) at the end of class.  She started  by asking us to imagine a lush, green forest within which there was a waterfall.  Then, she asked us to visualize a leaf in the rushing water.  On the leaf, we were instructed to put all of those things that needed to be “let go”.

As I thought about that image and the things in my life that I need to “put on the leaf”, the stresses of being in a blended family and the many negative issues that can invade the family came to mind.  Each time I consider the negative forces from ex-spouses, nay-sayers that don’t support our approach to modern, blended family life, intermittent difficulties with children, and other misunderstandings in our own relationship, I have committed to putting these issues “on the leaf” and letting them ride away down the rushing waterfall.  There are many other positive points to focus upon in our modern, blended family.  They will be my committed focus!

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National Step Family Day!

Today is National Step Family Day!

Although being a step-parent or a step-child is not always easy, it can be a great experience for all.  Forming relationships that are long-lasting is not an easy task and requires dedication and patience.  Although there may be days that it seems easier to throw in the towel and give up, envision a future where perseverance pays off!

http://www.national-awareness-days.com/national-step-family-day.html 

 

Tuesday Tip: Where will you be?

As many of you know, peppering your children with questions about their social lives, school day, or pretty much anything, is not the most effective way to get a conversation going!  We have a fun, yet highly informative, way for you to learn more about your children.  At our family dinners, we play a game called “Where will you be?”  Each child takes their turn telling us where they will be in 5, 10, 20 years (you choose the number of years from now).  The idea is to get them talking about WHERE they will be, WHAT  they will be doing, and WHO they will be spending time with.  We started this when we first became a blended family.  In those early days, our youngest was about 3 years old!  Her answers were cute and usually a play on something one of the older children had mentioned – my, how our lives have changed.  Now, she talks about graduating from high school 10 years from now!  This “game” is a no-pressure way to understand more about your children’s hopes and dreams – what college do they want to attend?  where do they want to live?  what subjects excite them?  where do they want to travel?  These are all amazing things you can learn from a “game”.

Try this with your blended family tonight!

 

Grandmothers

Today would have been my mother’s 72nd birthday.  It is a bittersweet day for me because it reminds me of many wonderful birthday parties with my  grandmother (her mother), her sisters and our families celebrating both her birthday and her older sister’s birthday.  Their birthdays were two days apart.  My grandmother always made “birthday cake” – a white cake (home-made, of course) with the most beautiful pink icing that she used to make little petite peaks all over the cake.

My mother didn’t get to be a grandmother; she died of gastric cancer the year she was to turn fifty.  So, today, more than twenty years later, the bitter comes from having two biological children that never got to have a birthday party with their maternal grandmother.  My mom would have been the most amazing grandmother…  I can only imagine how all of our lives might be different had she lived to see her grandchildren born and to have participated in their lives.  Elaina, my daughter, carries my mother’s name (Elaine).  It serves as a lasting tribute and reminder to her of the grandmother she didn’t have the opportunity to know or to be loved by.  I make sure to tell the kids stories about her and make recipes with them that my mother made for my siblings and me (Snickerdoodles being our #1 favorite to make together!!).  Anything to help them know her in some small way.

Although nothing can replace the potential grandmother my mom could have been, my children haven’t fully missed out on the love and affection of grandmother-like figures in their lives.  They are so lucky to have great aunts (TWO Aunt Glendas and an Aunt Kaky – these are on my side of the family).  They are also lucky to have a wonderful grandmother via our blended family. I am very grateful for Russell’s mother who welcomed my children with open arms from the very first day she met them.  They call her “grandma” and look forward to visits with her and from her just like any grandchild would anticipate such a visit.  She asks about their lives and converses with them with kind attention.  For this, I am thankful.

In our lives, sometimes we lose people.  Those people are not replaceable.  My mother is certainly not replaceable, to me or to my children.  However, in life, we must also look for sweetness even in bittersweet times.  Our blended family has given my children the chance to find just that.

That is what this blog is about… looking for the positives in the blended family

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Tuesday Tip #27: Find ways to define your blended family

This past weekend, on a gorgeous, sunny day, the country club where my children swim hosted the annual “Big Meet”.  This is where a couple of hundred kids, ages 5 to 16 years old, from five different country clubs compete for the title of “North Shore Swim League Champions”.  As a club, we hosted about 500 people; many parents volunteered to pull off a fantastic event.

In working to define our family, Russell was a volunteer at the “Big Meet’ – just like any other parent.

Working to direct incoming traffic to the correct parking lot (imagine, minivans driven by moms, full of kids and sports cars driven by dads coming with Dunkin’ Donuts — this is a true observation!), Russell’s contribution demonstrated several things:

— despite the three hours distance between us, we are building a presence as a complete family both in Reading, MA and Burlington, VT

— he cares immensely for his step-son and step-daughter  — contributing to an important event for my children demonstrates their importance in his life

Find ways to participate in your step-children’s activities – the rewards are great for all!

Tuesday Tip #26: Birth Order

I’ve been interested in Birth Order for years – I find it so interesting that first-borns tend to behave differently than middle children whom also have different tendencies than the children born last in a family (and of course, there are many other combinations!).  Although there are always exceptions, I look at both Russell and myself (we are both first borns!) and our behaviors and expectations are quite similar.  After reading some of Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book, I became more intrigued about our blended family and how birth order affects our interactions with our children and their relationships with one another.

My youngest is a ten year-old that has plenty of talents.  She is an amazing gymnast and enjoys ballet and tap dancing also.  She is the youngest of my two children and thus, in our family (prior to LuckySevenFamily) she has been the ‘baby’.  Given her status in the family, she tends to be more protected than her older brother.  However, in our modern, blended family she is NOT the youngest/baby of the family.  Russell’s youngest child is a couple of years younger than her and on top of being the youngest of his three children, she was also born four years after the middle child, giving her the ultimate “baby of the family” status.  She is a great soccer player and tends more towards group sports than does my daughter.

The relationship between these two youngest girls is an intriguing one; they are the very best of friends and sisters.  Just this past weekend, they were shopping for school clothes together.  Ultimately, they chose several matching outfits – so cute!  However, there are times when they are ultra-competitive with one another; fighting for their position in the family.  Although they are only two years apart in age, my blondie is super tall and Russell’s brunette is a petite girl that looks several years younger than she actually is.  This discrepancy in size also plays easily into further “baby of the family” status for the youngest in our blended family.  For my daughter, not being the true baby of the blended family can be frustrating; in many ways she becomes a middle child which can be quite annoying for a true “baby of the family”!

Given this observation, we have to be careful about how we react to both girls.  Russell and I must work to provide both girls reassurance about their important positions in the family – striving not to always allow his daughter complete ownership of “baby of the family” role and providing some of that experience to my daughter.  Similarly, we have to remind my daughter that she must remember she is older and has more mature experiences than our youngest; thus our expectations ARE different.

I could provide plenty of other (very entertaining!) examples of how our oldest children deal with their positions and how Russell’s middle child has his role in our blended family.  For another day…

Remember how your blended family affects birth order among all of the children and consider how you can play up the strengths and down-play the drawbacks of these various positions in a blended family!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with birth order in a blended family! Feel free to leave under “comments”.