Lucky Seven Family

Category Archives: Step-child Relations

Taking over Instagram @nobullshitmotherhood!!

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!

Mothering without a Mother…

“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.

Christmas Plans – Part 2

In my last post I shared how my ex- and I manage Christmas holidays…

Now, for Russell and his kids:

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!

Dedicated Dad:

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.

Couple’s Christmas:

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.

Lessons Learned:

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!

 

 

The Holidays (or How to Keep Christmas from becoming Chaos!)

Christmas Eve dinner at our local Chinese buffet

Nerissa, Valentina (our awesome au pair from Germany), and the kids’ Dad (his girlfriend is taking the photo!)

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.

Next post will be about Russell & his kids celebration plans!

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…)

Sausage & Cheese Balls:

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.

ENJOY!!!

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

 

Lead by Example

Last weekend, on a cold and raw New England spring day, Russell and I were driving with my two children to my daughter, Elaina’s, lacrosse game.  My blonde, blue-eyed girl is the talkative one; the one that can’t keep secrets (for which I’m grateful!).  As we are driving down the interstate, she starts to recount a story about when we were in Santa Barbara recently with the entire clan (Lucky Seven Family – Russell and his 3 kids, me and my 2 kids).  She is very detailed in her story-telling; chattering away from the backseat about our recent spring break trip to sunny, relaxing Santa Barbara.  She starts to tell us about a conversation she had with her step-sister, Alida (Russell’s oldest daughter).  “We were talking about how Alida “sighs” at everything”, she says.  The “sigh” – everyone in Lucky Seven Family chuckles at her trademark mechanism for signifying to anyone who is nearby her disdain for the current situation or often, request made of her.  Elaina continues telling the story:  yeah, and Alida said, “what’s funny about Nerissa (me, her stepmom), getting frustrated with me for sighing is that she does it too!”

Silence – my mouth may have fallen open…

Wait a second…Pause please… while I recover from the gut-punch!!

Reality sets in…over the last week I’ve really been thinking about how we as parents and step-parents are teaching every day.  Our children and step-children are modeling our behavior; they are our mirrors.  They are acutely aware of us whether we realize it or not.

My lesson learned is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE.  Exhibit the behavior I want to see in my children and step-children.  Praise them for accomplishments and effort.  Praise them for helping without being asked.  Don’t focus on the negative behavior only.  Ignore some of the sighs and be aware of my own.

Blending a family comes with challenges, but also many opportunities to learn about yourself and your loved ones.  Try every day to see your blended family as an opportunity to LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

lead by example2

 

Happy Mother’s Day

I am a LUCKY mom and stepmom!! Also LUCKY to have had a wonderful mother, if only for a short time.

IMG_0620 mommaIMG_4501

How I wish…

What an amazing post from a mom who can accept and move on for the best of her daughter:

http://www.today.com/parents/letter-my-daughters-stepmom-i-never-wanted-you-here-1D80341783

Step-Daughters

As many of you are very well aware, mothers and daughters have complex relationships! (shocker for you to hear, I’m sure!!).  Well, add step-daughter and step-mother to the mix and COMPLEXITIES abound! My step-daughters are both very sweet girls – one would probably object a bit to being called a ‘girl’ – perhaps young lady is more descriptive (she’s in 8th grade).

Today, I took the opportunity to spend some time with my step-daughter shopping.  Several things happened:  I asked her to help me find a certain type of necklace I was looking for, then I showed her respect by suggesting she might prefer to go to another store she really liked, then I offered to buy her an outfit she liked.  Here, the buying part is the LEAST important!  What I hoped  to do in our time together was show her I valued her opinion and trusted her.  By asking her to help me choose a necklace, I conveyed the importance of her opinion and by suggesting she might want to go to a favorite store without me, I allowed her to feel trusted and independent enough to go it alone until I arrived.  Buying her the outfit was ‘icing on the cake’ – I hope it demonstrated to her that we are a family and just like I’d buy my own daughter an outfit, I would do the same for her.

Despite any amount of head-butting between a mom and daughter or a step-mom and step-daughter, let me suggest some SHOPPING THERAPY!  Take the time, make the effort – have some fun together.  Shopping allows you to build a relationship together, talk about things you have in common, and relax a little around each other.

We had a lot of fun together today.  And as you may know, I work hard to keep this blog POSITIVE – my step-daughter and I have had some tough communications recently, but today was fun, light and respectful — I think it was a MAJOR STEP in the right direction!!