So much for well-made plans.  I had thought that I would be able to get the carpets scrubbed in at least two of the kids’ bedrooms on Saturday since it was our “alone” weekend and all of the kids would be with their other parents.  No such luck.  It turns out that our house is the house of choice for some of our kids.  They show up here a lot, even on the “alone” weekends.  Here is what I was able to accomplish instead of scrubbing carpets:

Accomplishment #1 – I got to interact with Huh and some of her friends on Saturday morning when they showed up at our house looking for “something to do.”  That night was the Cosmos dance at their school (a girl’s choice dance) and so  for their “day” activity they had gone to one of the girls’ houses to tie-dye their shirts for the dance.  The type of tie-dying they chose to do only took twenty minutes, so they came to our house to see if we had any ideas on what they could do for the rest of the morning.  One of the girls was dateless and I asked where her date was.

“Hunting,” was her reply.  “He’s pheasant hunting.”

“Oh.  Well why don’t you all go see if you can find him?”

After they all laughed and made comments about how funny it would be to go hunt Mason while he was out hunting, they shot my idea down and asked for another idea.  So much for getting rid of them (wink, wink).  Hub asked if they were hungry, and of course all of the teen boys raised their hands and chorused, “Yes!  Food!”  Hub began making German pancakes and I suggested that while the pancakes were baking they all go shopping for the banana split stuff they would need when they came to our house for the after-dance activity.  I handed Huh my credit card and seven teenagers rushed out the door.

When they finally returned 45 minutes later, they were loaded down with grocery bags.  They got a kick out of me examining the store receipt and pointing out in mock consternation that there were twenty one items on the receipt.  “How can you possibly need twenty one items for banana splits?”

They spent double the amount I had intended to spend on the banana splits, and Huh told me she would do extra chores around the house to make up the difference.  The teens enjoyed the German pancakes and we got to laugh and joke around with them until noon, when it was time for the girls to take the boys home to relax until they picked them up for dinner and the dance later that night.

I actually accomplished two things with that activity.  Not only did I get to interact with Huh and some of her friends (which is always a good thing for a parent to do) I also learned a valuable lesson.  Never send a bunch of hungry teenagers to the grocery store with your American Express card!

Accomplishment #2– Mack ended up sleeping at our house on Friday night (looong story as to why).  On Saturday she finished drawing her entry and writing the essay for a dress design contest she wanted to enter.  It was too late to mail the entry and so she needed to hand deliver it to one of the locations here in the valley.  She tried several times to reach her father on the phone to see if he could take her to deliver the entry.  It is his weekend to have her and I always insist the kids try him first on his weekends.  She was never able to get a hold of him, so after Huh and her friends had left, I told Mack to get in the car and we would deliver her entry and then she could go with me to run some errands.

The carpets still waited.  But, I got to spend time with my daughter, chatting in the car as we ran our errands.  And, I got to overhear two employees at the store where we delivered Mack’s contest entry whisper to each other about how much they liked her entry.  One of them then said loudly across the store so that Mack, who was examining some dresses on a rack, could hear, “Hey, I like your dress design.”

Mack got a big grin on her face and said, “Thanks!”  I nodded and smiled at her and was happy I was able to help her deliver her entry.

Accomplishment # 3– This accomplishment actually started about a week and a half before.  Huh and her friends were planning their activities for the dance and had decided to have Hub make some of his fabulous Japanese food, which would be cheaper for them than taking their dates to a restaurant.  I was talking to Huh about her plans and mentioned that all of the activities revolved around our house.  I said that maybe her dad would like to be a part of some of it too, especially since the dance fell on his weekend to have the kids.  Huh nodded and said, “I have actually been thinking about that.  I wonder if Dad would make some of his homemade Italian food?”

“Why don’t you call him and ask him?”

“Yeah, I think I will.”

My ex was more than happy to do it.  So why is this such a big accomplishment on my part?  There was a time when I was so angry about the divorce that I would have never wanted Huh and her friends to share these happy dating times with him.  I would have stated that he didn’t deserve to experience this part of his daughter’s life.  I’ve made a conscious effort to let go of the anger and move on.  I guess enough healing has occurred.  I pat myself on the back for suggesting to my daughter that she share part of the evening with her father.

Hub’s accomplishment– Hub and I have paid for a booth at an upcoming boutique at Wheeler Farm on November 22 to show products from his new business and to show the new weight loss product that I sell.  We planned on using part of Saturday to get things ready for the boutique.  Instead, Squid and Shroom called Hub and asked him if he wanted to go biking with them.  They had picked a trail near where Hub grew up and wanted him to show them around.  How could Hub say no to that?  He went.

Hub came home later that night with a torn sweatshirt and a bruised hand from a fall that happened when he took a turn too fast.  He got to listen to my lecture about wearing a bike helmet and being more careful.  But, he also had tales of watching his boys take jumps and showing them around the area he knew as a kid.

Carpets scrubbed this weekend = 0; Tasks completed for the boutique = 0; Time spent with kids = PRICELESS!

On behalf of Yawlin and myself I would like to thank all those who sent their positive thoughts and good wishes our way regarding our sick little guinea pig. Unfortunately, S’mores didn’t make it.  He died about five hours after bringing him home from the vet. 

Yawlin and I had managed to get him to drink a syringe full of fresh squeezed orange juice and, a couple of hours later, one more syringe of water before Yawlin went outside to play with friends.  After awhile I heard Yawlin say, “Just a minute guys, I need to check on S’mores.”  He came bounding up the stairs with his friends in tow.

I followed Yawlin into his room and saw S’mores curled up by his water dispenser.  Yawlin was closest and could tell immediately something wasn’t right.  “Mom, is he–?”

“I’m not sure, Yawlin, let me check.”  I looked closer.  “Oh no, I don’t think he’s breathing.”  Hub and Huh had followed us into the room.  I looked at Hub and said, “Is he breathing?”

Hub leaned close to the cage and then quietly confirmed that S’mores wasn’t breathing.  Yawlin let out a wail and I gathered him in a hug.  Yawlin’s poor friends didn’t know what to do, they just backed up to the wall and quietly watched what was going on.  I did my best to comfort my son and then Huh gave him a hug as well.  She wasn’t particularly fond of S’mores, but she didn’t like to see her little brother hurting.

We wasted no time in taking care of S’mores.  Yawlin carried S’mores with him when he went to the garage to pick out a box to bury him in.  He carefully put S’mores’ towel in the bottom of the box and then positioned S’mores in the box so that he looked comfortable.  He placed one of S’mores toys in the box and then wrote a note that said, “I love you, S’mores.”  He folded the note and put it between S’mores little paws.  Hub helped Yawlin bury S’mores in the backyard next to Chello, Huh’s bird, who died earlier this year. 

Yawlin is doing okay.  His friends stayed through the funeral and one invited him to sleep over at his house that night.  He has agreed to wait one month before deciding if he wants another guinea pig.  I told him that he might decide that it’s kind of nice not having to clean a cage every few days and that the space on his dresser can be used for other things.  On November 24 Yawlin will decide if he wants to shop for another guinea pig or sell S’mores’ things and pocket the money. 

Shhhhh, don’t tell Yawlin, but I’m secretly hoping he chooses the latter.


The contest celebrating my 102nd post is officially over.  I included anyone who commented on that post and Hub drew the winner out of my purple smiley face bowl.  And the winner is……..

Joy Erickson!

Check out Joy’s blog.  There is a different topic of conversation there every single day.  By the number of hits she has received, you can tell it is a popular blog.  I try to visit it regularly.

Joy, I will be contacting you to get information about the shirt we will be making for you.  Congratulations!

Moms have many titles:  chauffeur, coach, peacemaker, housekeeper, chef, tutor, etc.  For the last two days I have added one more title to my “Mom Resume.”  I am now officially a guinea pig nurse

Yawlin’s guinea pig, S’mores, suddenly became ill on Wednesday night.  So ill, in fact, that I was surprised he made it through the night.  The next day we spent hand feeding him, wiping his goopy eyes with a warm wash cloth, and giving him a warm bath.  Yawlin was brought to tears with worry for this little pet he’s had for two years, so I decided I’d better see what I could learn about guinea pig illnesses.  I did searches online and came to the conclusion that S’mores had an upper respiratory infection (URI).  Guinea pigs can’t overcome such an illness by themselves and, unless they receive antibiotics from a vet, it usually ends up fatal.  Swell.

My next step was to find a small animal vet and set up an appointment.  Yawlin is off-track from school right now so he was able to accompany me to the vet today.  The vet checked poor S’mores over and then let the bomb drop.  The guinea pig has pneumonia and is in critical condition. 

We had three options:  1.  Do nothing and let S’mores die.  2.  Take S’mores home with a supply of antibiotics that we administer twice a day.  Try to force feed him.  Watch him (his chances of survival–pretty slim).  3.  Leave him at the animal hospital for some intensive care; chances of survival 50-50, and a cost of $350.00 (in addition to the $50.00 I was already paying for the examination).

After consulting with Hub on the phone, and then talking to Yawlin, it was decided we would bring S’mores home with the antibiotic and see what we can do for him on our own.  He had his first dose of antibiotics at the animal hospital.  We will give him his second dose just before we go to bed tonight.  Since the vet said he is very dehydrated I used his medicine syringe to force him to drink some water.  I have a feeling it is going to be a long day and night. 

Yawlin understands that S’mores is very ill and that he might die.  I have had to rearrange my schedule slightly in order to help take care of this critical little animal.  Why go to all the trouble for a guinea pig?  If you could have seen the look in Yawlin’s eyes the first time I took S’mores in my arms and tried to get him to take some orange juice from my finger, you would understand.  The look was one of hope and relief–hope and relief that Mom knows what to do, hope and relief that Mom is now in charge, and hope and relief that Mom will do whatever she can to help the little piggy.  

The cost of recieving the new title of Guinea Pig Nurse = some of my time, letting some of my schedule go, and the very real possibility that my efforts will fail.  But, the look of relief and hope in my son’s eyes, and the knowledge he now has that Mom loves him enough to do this for him = priceless! 


Only one more day to enter the contest celebrating my 102nd post!  The prize?  A nifty customized t-shirt.  Enter here.

Choices.  Priorities.  Focus.  What do I need to be doing today? 

Because of parent/teacher conferences earlier in the week Huh and Mack didn’t have school yesterday.  I chose to spend time with them.  No computer time.

Today is Mack’s 16th birthday.  Huh has been asked to tonight’s Homecoming dance at another school in the valley.  So has Juju.  Shroom has football.  Yawlin needs help cleaning out his guinea pig’s cage.  Hoob keeps following me around trying to chit chat.  Hub’s side business is taking off and he needs my help.

My family needs me.  The computer doesn’t.  

Choices.  Priorities.  Focus.

Hopefully I will be able to post again on Monday.

I’m doing what I need to do.  I’m doing what I want to do…

…spending time with my family.

About a year ago I signed up to receive periodic newsletters from Jack Canfield via email.  One recent newsletter featured an article titled, “Acknowledge and Appreciate Yourself.”  The article advises the reader to remember and think about big and little accomplishments and states that many people underappreciate the minor things they do successfully every day.

Some examples of some subtle, minor successes might include having a deep conversation with your spouse, reconnecting with an estranged friend, spending quality time with your children, crossing items off of your to-do list, or learning something new.

So, with that in mind, here are my “minor” accomplishments on this Labor Day:

*(Last night) A rain storm came through.  While the kids were all getting ready for bed I invited them to join me on the front porch to watch the storm instead of going to bed.  Mack, Hoob, and Yawlin took me up on the invitation.  We cuddled in blankets, watched people running to their cars as they left a neighbor’s party, and made up funny reasons for cars to be passing our house that late at night.  I let the kids decide when they were ready to go back into the house and go to bed.

*After the kids were in bed I went back out on the porch to continue watching the storm which had gotten worse.  It was a time for me to reflect on my goals and to count my blessings.  It was perfect “me” time.

*Before my family awoke I was able to get some journaling and reading done.  I was also able to fix hard-boiled eggs and toast for breakfast and have it all sitting on the counter before the first family members stirred.

*I asked Yawlin to come with me as I took the dog for a walk.  While we walked we talked about what he wants to be when he grows up (he’s not sure), what he wants to plant in his garden when he has his own house (corn and cucumbers), what he wants for his birthday meals tomorrow (crepes for breakfast and lasagna for dinner) and various other things.  While we walked it started to pour rain again.  We were only half way home and so chose to run the rest of the way.  As we ran I heard him say, “It’s actually kind of fun being out here in the rain.”  We were soaked and laughing by the time we got home.

*In addition to walking (running) the dog I managed to do some stretching exercises and some spot exercises on my calves.

*I asked Mack to come with me while I shopped for a baby gift and picked up a few groceries.  I let her drive so that she could have the practice.  While shopping she showed me some shirts she thought were cute and I got to hear all about school.

*Because of the way chores fall this week Huh and Hoob “got” to help me make raspberry (zucchini) jam.  They actually thought the whole process was pretty cool.  Huh also helped me make chicken enchiladas for dinner.

*I spent some time with Hub as he showed me some of the work he has done on our website for a business we are trying to start.

*I got to meet a new guy pal of Huh’s.  I invited him to stay for dinner (which he did) and to participate in our Family Home Evening (which he also did).  Then he and Huh left to go participate in his family’s Family Home Evening.

*I managed to do a load of dishes, two loads of laundry, and some general house straightening.

Since I am passionate about my family and try to make them my focus I am feeling pretty good about my day.  I was able to spend time with each person that was here.  Hub’s kid are with their mother for the holiday so I didn’t get to spend time with them.  Another day.  Some may find my day rather boring, but I am happy with it.

Jack Canfield wrote, “These may seem like minor acts in the grand scheme of life, but they are what make us feel whole, happy, and accomplished along the journey…”


Vacation Goals Update:

Family goal – Each person was asked to find at least one person to help or show kindness to while on our trip.  Helping a family member counted.  There were many little kindnesses performed, almost too many to write.  Here are the ones I personally noticed:

HUB – Gave Ryan our contact information and told him that if he ever desires to come to Utah he can stay in our condo in Moab or in my parents cabin in the Uinta mountains and that we will be his personal tour guides.  The offer is a standing offer.  Also, when we discovered too late that Yawlin wasn’t tall enough to go on Dueling Dragons, Hub stayed with Yawlin so that I could go on the ride with the rest of the kids.  Hub was very attentive to ALL of my needs on the trip.

ME – After getting caught in a downpour walking back to our hotel room one night and ending up soaking wet, we decided to order the old fashioned chicken noodle soup from room service to take the chill off.  The lady who brought our order was so kind and had decorated the table in such a pretty way that, even though there was already a 22 percent gratuity added to our order, I decided to tip her in addition to the gratuity.  We loved the flowers she had provided.  I also allowed Hub to use my travel pillow on our flights so that he could be more comfortable.

SQUID – Helped Yawlin lift his luggage up to high racks whenever we had to ride a shuttle at airports.  He also allowed Yawlin to bury his feet in wet sand at the beach.  Squid celebrated his 18th birthday on the day we left for the trip.  On a layover in Atlanta we rode a train to an underground mall and ate lunch at a 50’s style diner.  We informed our waitress that it was Squid’s 18th birthday and she brought him out a huge ice cream sundae and four helium filled balloons.  As we left the restaurant Squid spotted a group of mom’s with four kids.  He gave the balloons to the kids whose eyes lit up upon receiving the free gift.

HUH –  Was very attentive to her little brother.  She gave Yawlin a piggy back ride as we walked through one of the theme parks because he was getting a little tired.  She also took him to the hotel pool and played with him there while the rest of us rested in our hotel rooms.

JUJU- Held the pool gate open for a lady in a wheelchair.  She also stayed with Yawlin twice while the rest of us went on rides he was unable to go on.  She went with him on one ride that could be considered “boring” for a teenager.

MACK – At the car rental counter she saw a woman’s overloaded suitcase about to tip over.  Mack held it up for the lady until she was finished filling out her paperwork and was able to take control of her suitcase herself.  Also, we all witnessed a worker at Islands of Adventure get yelled at by a woman for something that wasn’t his fault.  Mack waited for the lady to leave and then she went and apologized to the worker in behalf of the lady. 

SHROOM – Held a door open for some people at one of the attractions and then got stuck there holding the door because people kept coming.  And coming.  We had a good time teasing him about getting stuck holding the door.

HOOB- Stayed with Yawlin closer to shore while the rest of the family tried body surfing in deeper water at the beach.  She also helped him build things in the sand according to his specifications.  Hoob also held a few doors open.  

YAWLIN – There was a boy at the beach who had been floating in a tube.  Somehow the tube got away from him and was floating out to where he couldn’t reach it.  Yawlin grabbed the tube and brought it back to him.  He did the same thing with a ball that another little boy had at the hotel pool.  Yawlin also held doors open a few times.

*One funny way our teenage daughters showed kindness came after they had caught a seagull.  At Cocoa Beach they concocted a wild plan.  Huh was buried in the sand except for her head which was covered by a towel.  The other girls then placed pieces of nectarine and bread on Huh and the towel.  Huh had to be patient and lie there for quite awhile.  There were a few near misses and then one seagull landed in the perfect spot and Huh rose from the sand and trapped him with the towel.  It was actually pretty hilarious.  The girls were ecstatic that their plan had worked.  Others on the beach, especially kids, wanted to pet the bird and get pictures.  The girls happily obliged before letting the angry bird go.

My personal goal:  I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with each member of my family or to at least make each individual the focus for a time.  We did most things together as a family (which is the point of a family vacation), but I did manage to squeeze in some “focus time” with each person:

HUB – There was one morning that we woke before the kids and were able to sit and quietly talk about trip happenings and make plans for the new day.  We also held hands whenever we could, which prompted the kids to make the “Awww, lookit” comments.  Hub listened to the comments for awhile and then planted a big fat kiss on my lips.  The kids reacted by running away and yelling, “PDA!  PDA!  Ewwwww!”  🙂

SQUID – At the 50’s style diner that we ate at on our layover in Atlanta our waitress gave us some nickels to use in the juke box.  I invited Squid to come with me to choose songs to play.  He didn’t know any of the old songs so he ended up choosing by how interesting the song title sounded.  

HUH – During our flight home the two of us were seated together but across the aisle from the rest of the family.  I used that time as our one-on-one time.  We looked at all the pictures from the trip on my digital camera and we did cross-word puzzles together.

JUJU – The two of us volunteered to be a part of the Fear Factor Live show at Universal Studios.  While the rest of the family left to go on the Simpson’s Ride the two of us had to fill out paperwork in order to be participants.  We were able to use the time to visit and to take pictures of the two of us together.

MACK – We were on the Jimmy Neutron ride together and laughed hysterically at the rest of our family’s reactions to the ride.  We were both wiping tears from our eyes.

SHROOM – Had to leave us a day and a half early because of football.  Right after going on his final attraction of the trip I made him the focus by having the family give him a big group hug for a picture.  I told everyone to have sad faces.  There were people walking by who were wondering what it was all about.   

HOOB – While at the beach she asked me to bury her in the sand and take her picture.  I happily obliged.  We also walked over to an empty lifeguard tower and I took pictures of her posing on it.

YAWLIN- After we’d experienced most of the attractions at both theme parks together as a family we split up so that the teenagers could continue doing thrill rides.  Yawlin and I got to spend a lot of time together trying attractions that were more appealing to him.  I watched him play in water in two different kiddie areas, we took pictures of each other in different spots in the parks, and we visited some gift shops.  At the beach I buried Yawlin in the sand and then took a picture of him and I helped him build a castle with a moat that kept getting washed away in the surf.

The two goals I’d set (one personal and one for the family) were fulfilled.  The main reasons for taking a family vacation were to create memories and do some bonding.  Mission accomplished!

I recently had a reader named Michelle post a question on my blog that I felt needed a bit more than just a quick response in the comment thread.  I am going to post the question here, give some of my thoughts, and then open it up to suggestions from others who may also have some ideas.

“My husband has adopted my two boys, 7 and 10, and he has a 17 year old girl and 14 year old boy from his first marriage.  With my husband recently adopting our younger boys, it has definitely affected his 14 year old son.  They do not live with us or in the same area, so visits are few and far between.  My husband has always had a difficult time relating to his son.  The son is much closer to his mom.  The kids are coming to visit next week, and lately the visits are so strained that the son won’t participate in any activities, he just wants to play his PSP or video games.  He is now suffering in school as well and his sister told my husband that he doesn’t have as many friends anymore.  Depression?  We know that seeing his dad raise younger boys must hurt, especially since the boys play sports and the 14 year old hates sports.  I am trying to help my husband open up to his son and just talk, but my husband is so nervous.  They have a few things in common, but over the past few years they have grown apart.  I am hoping this is just the teenage years that we just experienced with his daughter, but I don’t know.  Just seeking whatever guidance anyone may have.  We have spent enough money on books, etc.  I thought it time to talk to the experts.  Our peers.  Thank you. 

When we first got married we experienced something similar.  When two households combine there is bound to be some “stepping on toes.”  With my divorce we have the standard visitation set up.  My kids live here full-time.  They have dinner with their father on Thursdays and they stay with him every other weekend.  Hub’s divorce is different.  He and his ex split the week with their kids.  It’s a little strange, but we have all adapted.  Everyone struggled in the beginning.  Hub’s youngest son, Shroom, was 11 when we got married.  He was the one who struggled the most with his dad sharing time with other kids.  He got angry once when Hub called my son “buddy.”  Hub had always called Shroom “buddy” and he didn’t like hearing his dad call anyone else that name.  He was also jealous that Hub built my son a bed.  He pulled away from my husband and wouldn’t talk to him.  The mother called and claimed that Shroom wanted to live with her permanently.  It broke my husband’s heart.  We got through it, Shroom stayed with the schedule, and he no longer seems to have those issues.  Here are some ideas that have worked for us.  Maybe they will work for you as well.

*Have your husband spend one-on-one time with each child.  He should give them his undivided attention.  Turn off the cell phone.  Listen to what they have to say.  Let them pick an activity they would like to do with just the two of them–a movie, lunch, playing catch–whatever, but let the kids do the choosing.  Have him try to get a few minutes alone with each child every day.  

*Driving in the car sometimes helps kids relax and they are more apt to talk.  Maybe Dad and son could run errands together and talk in the car between stops.  Or a long drive somewhere may help facilitate a conversation. 

*Another idea might be for him to take a one-on-one trip with each child.  My husband has told me to do that with each of my children (what a gift from him!).  I took my oldest daughter to San Diego last summer.  She picked the destination and the activities.  We toured the city, played on the beach, visited Sea World, and did a snorkeling excursion.  We took lots of pictures and I wrote about it in her journal.  She had been struggling with some personal issues and the trip helped us grow closer and helped her to open up about some of her struggles.  The rest of the kids can’t wait until it is their turn and Hub plans to do the same with his own kids.  If time or money is an issue, day trips in your area could be an option.  Since he doesn’t live in your area, visiting some of the sites near your home might be fun for your step son.  Show him a list of options and let him choose a few for some one-on-one time with dad.  Also, a camping trip with just the two of them might be something they would enjoy.

*Does your husband keep in contact with his children when they aren’t with you?  Regular positive phone calls, emails, and snail mail can help keep the relationship intact.  Does the son have a cell phone?  I have found that texting my kids occasionally has helped us to bond.  They really like it when a parent takes the time to send them a message.  Just last night my kids’ dad sent them a picture text of himself because he’d just shaved his head.  They burst into laughter and begged for me to let them borrow the car so they could go see his new ‘do in person.  Texting is big with teenagers, parents can join in and connect with their teens.

*Since your step son likes to play his PSP and video games, maybe Dad could play the games with him.  The son might enjoy teaching his dad how to play.  When I was a single mom we had a Nintendo gaming system.  My kids regularly invited me to play with them because they knew they could always beat me.  They loved it.  Whenever we played Mario Kart together they would pass me up then turn around and nail me with a turtle shell, or they’d just run over me.  We had a lot of laughs playing that game.  Maybe you could buy a new game for them all to try.  Rock Band and Guitar Hero seem to be big with kids right now, maybe your husband and his kids could play those games together.

*Since your step son is so big on his PSP and video games, chances are he likes the computer too.  Maybe your husband and his son could spend some time finding things to view on You Tube.  That is something our kids like to do.  They really like to view clips from the 80’s because that is when we were teenagers.  They love to make fun of the 80’s.  But there is so much more to view on You Tube then stuff from the 80’s.  There is bound to be something the two of them connect with.

*You mention that your husband and his son have some things in common, perhaps your husband needs to focus on those things and plan some activities around those common interests.

*Does your step son like to read?  Maybe your husband could read a book that his son is currently reading or has read in the past and then they could discuss the book together.  I just finished reading a book about vampirates because my daughter had read it and wanted me to read it too.  I have connected with my kids and my step kids by reading what they read.

*Make sure there is “family time.”  Studies show that families that eat meals together regularly are closer.  The kids also eat healthier and make better choices.  Make one night a week your “family night.”  On that night spend time as a family playing games, or watching a video to discuss later, or go out for ice cream, or roast marshmallows, or visit a park, the ideas are limitless! 

*Taking family vacations together is a great way to bond.  Make sure every person has a responsibility to carry out and some choice on the activities.  Take lots of pictures and allow the kids to choose their favorites to keep for themselves.

*Friends are an important part of teenagers’ lives.  Is it possible for your step son to bring a friend with him occasionally?  Having a friend around may help him to loosen up.

*Even though your step son doesn’t enjoy sports perhaps there is something physical your husband and his son could do together that they would both enjoy.  Maybe they could go rock climbing, jogging, hiking, or swimming.  Even a simple walk together through a canyon, around the neighborhood, or in a park could provide some bonding time.

*Maybe your husband could take his son with him to work one day.  Dad could show all about his career and tell what he did to prepare for his career, which may spark an interest in his son towards that career, or at least it might start a conversation about career choices in general.  Maybe the son will share his thoughts on what he wants to do with his life.

*Have the two of them learn a new skill together.  Do they both have an interest in photography?  Learn it together!  Any new skill is game:  swimming lessons, creative writing, computer skills, riding a unicycle, doing tricks with a yo-yo.  The point is that they do it together.

*Doing chores together is a great way to get them talking.  Cook a meal together.  Do the dishes.  Yard work.  Time is spent together.  Work gets done.  Skills are learned.  And bonding occurs.

*While your step kids are with you, make sure that they get some choice on how they spend their time.  Let them choose some of the family activities and let them choose some activities they can do on their own.  Kids tend to be more cooperative if they feel they have some control over their lives.

*Dad can look for the good in his kids and make sure to verbalize it.  Notice what their interests are.  Notice their clothing choices.  Notice their choice of tv shows.  Kids like to be noticed.  Don’t make an issue if some of the choices would not be your choices.  Just notice, and if they choose to share with you the reasons why they choose some things, then listen.

*Has your husband and his former wife discussed the school and friend concerns?  They may want to do that and come up with a plan together on how to help their son.

*Some things you as the step mom can do would be to allow your husband and his kids to have some time together without the “other” family.  It isn’t personal, it’s about preserving relationships.  You can do things to bond with your step kids.  The ideas above can be adapted for step parents and step kids.  Look for the good in your step kids and be sure to verbalize what you see.  Remember that they are part of the person you fell in love with.  Do what you can to make them feel welcome in your home.  Buy their favorite foods, provide a place they can be alone when they feel that need, initiate conversations with them, let them do chores–chores are part of being a family.  Display pictures of them in your home.  If you have access to it, display some of their outstanding school work or art work.

There are many other ideas, but I am already over 1900 words with this post and I am anxious to see what others have to suggest.  Thank you for your question, it gave me the opportunity to evaluate how we are doing in our own family.  Good luck!

Mack plopped herself down on my bed.  Lying on her stomach, she stretched out the width of it, crossed her arms in front of her, and rested her head on her crossed arms.

“Mom, my phone is dying.  Can I get some money from my account.  Dad says that when we are with him this weekend we might be able to run to WalMart and get one of those cheapie phones.”

I continued sweeping my bathroom floor.  The goal was to sweep and mop the master bathroom and then move on to vacuuming the stairs.  “I don’t know, Mack, maybe we can get to the bank later this afternoon.”

Mack nodded and asked an unrelated question.  And then another.  I finished my sweeping, but left the mop leaning against the wall.  My daughter was in the mood to talk.  Our conversation lasted for two hours.  We covered almost every topic imaginable.  We talked about our upcoming family vacation, the consequences of dishonesty, laundry, the purpose of child support payments, what some of her friends are doing this summer, some doctrinal points from our religion, and much more.  At one point Mack got emotional about some information I gave her that touched her heart.  She made a commitment to try one of my suggestions.  And the mop didn’t move from the wall.

Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, tells the story of a short conversation between a mother and her son:

Robert:  “Mom, I know that you love me very much.”

Mrs. Esposito:  “Of course I love you very much.  Did you doubt it?”

Robert:  “No, but I really know you love me because whenever I want to talk to you about something you stop whatever you are doing and listen to me.”  (pg. 83) 

Listening and talking to my daughter delayed my morning routine by two hours.  Did Mack feel more loved because I stopped what I was doing and listened to her?  I don’t know, that never came up in the conversation, but I do know that it was a conversation that I wouldn’t have missed for the world!

I love the early morning, it is my favorite time of day.  And I consider it a blessing that the rest of my family would rather not get up as early as I do.  I enjoy the alone time.  Usually, before the rest of the family is stirring, I have managed to pray and read scriptures, do some journal writing, do my stretching and spot exercises, and take the dog for a brisk mile and a half walk.  When I return from the walk I begin my ritual of preparing breakfast and greeting those in the family who are beginning to wake up and wander into the kitchen.  I protect my schedule vigorously.

Yesterday my regular morning schedule got messed up.  It started the night before when my daughter, Huh, was late getting home.  She’d had friends from her old school come to visit.  They didn’t have access to a car and so had caught TRAX (local commuter rail) out to the nearest station and Huh had picked them up in our car and brought them to the house.  At 10:45 p.m. Huh drove them back to the station.  The drop off should have taken only 20 to 25 minutes and then Huh should have been home.  When an entire hour had passed and Huh still wasn’t home I began calling her cell phone every few minutes.  It kept going straight to voice mail.  I have an overactive “worry gene” and began picturing in my mind everything that could have possibly gone wrong.  Did she have a flat tire?  Did she decide to drive her friends all the way home instead?  Had there been an accident?  The TRAX stations aren’t the safest places in the world, had there been some sinister person waiting in the shadows to jump my beautiful daughter, kidnap her, smuggle her out of the country, and doom her to a life of servitude in his country of origin???  Yup, overactive worry gene.  And I couldn’t go looking for her because Hub is out of town with our other vehicle.  

Huh finally returned about 30 minutes after I’d begun calling her cell phone.  She could tell I was angry.  She handed me her phone and gave her explanation.  There are fewer TRAX trains that run that late at night and so she’d waited with her friends in the car until a train arrived so that they wouldn’t be waiting alone in the station.  She’d tried to call but her phone battery had died (why can’t teenagers keep their phones charged?) and neither of her friends had a phone with them.  Okay, it was a pretty good explanation.  I calmed down.

“Go to bed,” I said.  “I love you, you know.  That’s why I worry so much.  If I didn’t love you I wouldn’t even care if you stayed out all night.”

Huh smiled.  “I know mom.  But, I would never do that to you.” 

That’s my girl.

I got to bed much later than I usually do.  Not to worry though, I could still get up at my regular time.  I would just be a little sleepy.  The sleep Gods were against me though.  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning I woke up worrying about my dad who had received disheartening news from a colonoscopy earlier in the week.  He is not handling the news in a healthy way.  And so I worry.  Is there a surgery or medication for overactive worry gene?

I finally managed to fall asleep around the time I am usually getting up.  It was a guilt ridden sleep though.  I kept emerging into semi-consciousness and thinking of what I needed to be doing.  Zzzzzz…I need to make hashbrowns…zzzzzz…I write in Hoob’s journal today…zzzzzz…I won’t feel like exercising…zzzzzz…maybe I’ll pray in my dream…zzzzzz.  I was awakened by Mack gently shaking me.  “Mom, Yawlin and I need a ride to tennis lessons.”

And so my day began.  A full two hours later than usual.  It was so hard to drag myself out of bed.  While I drove Mack and Yawlin to tennis lessons I was berating myself for everything I hadn’t yet gotten done.  In my mind the entire day’s schedule was ruined and my guilt was intense.  I did manage to do some stretching exercises and take the dog for his walk before it was time to pick my kids up from their tennis lesson.  I fixed breakfast when we returned home.  The scripture reading and journaling happened later in the day.  All of the housework and other items on my to-do list still got done, albeit a little later than usual.

As I reflected on it before bed I realized something.  Lightening didn’t strike when the scripture reading happened in the afternoon instead of the morning.  The Journal Police didn’t show up at my door demanding why journaling hadn’t yet occurred.  The Exercise Police must have looked the other way when I walked the dog later in the morning.  And the Laundry Police must have taken the day off.  There were no major consequences for sleeping in one morning.  There was no reason to be so hard on myself for giving in to the need to sleep.  Sometimes I am so hard on myself.  No, ALOT of the time I am hard on myself.  There was no reason to be.  The world didn’t stop spinning just because I didn’t get up at my usual time.  The guilt was unnecessary. 

Lesson learned:  Um, maybe all those police are in my head???

I will be going to my daughter’s softball tournament this morning.  Depending on wins and losses, she may still be playing at the same time another daughter will be having her dance recital.  Of course, both daughters want me present at their event.  Huh knows I will have to leave her at the ball tournament to attend Hoob’s recital if her team keeps winning.  She understands.  Their father (the ex) can’t, won’t, doesn’t attend these things.  How do I split myself between these events?  This weekend is okay.  Like I said, Huh understands that I won’t be able to stay for the entire tournament if her team keeps winning.  But, there are other tournaments this summer (Huh and I will be in Colorado for a tournament next weekend).  How do I make myself available for all of the kids?  How do I get over the guilt I feel whenever I attend a ball tournament and leave the other kids at home?  When they were younger I brought all of the kids with me.  Now that they are older and are involved with their own activities they have no interest in attending ball tournaments that last all…day…long.

I mentioned my guilt to Huh last night as we were driving home from the ball tournament at 11:00 p.m.  She jokingly said, “You need to be with me cuz I’m the oldest and have the least amount of time left to be at home.”  Sigh.  How do I do it all?  I sometimes refer to my other kids as orphans on these weekends we have tournaments because they don’t have Mom around.  Hub is there with them, of course.  But they don’t have Mom.  My eight year old is the one I worry about the most.  When he’s older and looks back on his childhood is he going to think Mom was never home on the weekends?

All of the other kids except Huh will be attending the dance recital since it is a twice-a-year event and I believe that all family members that can should show support.  I also require each of Huh’s siblings to attend at least one ball game during the season.  It gets really crazy When Shroom starts football and Yawlin starts soccer.  How, how, how do I do it all?

This is a rambling, random post, I know.  But, I would appreciate any advice anyone could give.  And thanks.