Duck Culture

I went to my first Oregon Ducks game last weekend. Not really being a football fan, or a sports fan in general, I just wanted to go for the experience. And let me just say wow, an experience it was, indeed! The stands were packed with Duck fans in green, yellow, and black. Apparently there is a theme color every game which the fans are supposed to wear. Who knew? The Duck fans knew the same cheers and songs, they gave out high fives like parents give out candy on Halloween, and they danced like they were backing up Beyonce. Being a Duck fan is like being in this exciting, exclusive club, like the Babysitter’s Club except with adults, and beer.

It was amazing to watch and be a part of for those few hours, but guess what?

I don’t want in.

Attending a Ducks game helped me realize I am an even bigger dork than I ever realized. I think I watched the people around me, the cheerleaders, and then band more than I watched the actual game. When everyone was cheering and clapping, I didn’t feel compelled to join in, I felt compelled to watch the human interactions around me. I spied the Cougar fans around me and wondered if they felt out of place, or even a little uneasy as they were outnumbered easily ten to one (but probably much more). I stared at the young children sporting Ducks gear and painted face and wondered how young their parents had started conditioning them to love “Our Ducks.” I looked on as grown men threw tantrums when refs made a call they didn’t like. I also gazed at young love-struck couples bonding over a shared love for sports, and old couples with walkers and canes snuggling together, sharing what has possibly been a dating tradition of theirs for decades. I watched college students find a place where they felt they truly belonged, and friends bond over tradition. And the few times I actually watched the game, I saw a team of men who were dedicated so strongly to a cause that they put their sweat, heart, and possibly even their soul into it. So please, don’t get me wrong, I think that the sports culture in America can be fun and healthy, and a great place to seek unity. It’s just not who I am.

I do have one major issue with American sports:

In a moment of clarity, my mind was put at unease when I realized that I might be safer at a Ducks game than a child (or adult) in an American public school. THAT is what really got me thinking about our American values. When I walked into that stadium, my purse was checked. There were police officers and security guards stationed EVERYWHERE. I felt safe. I want my kids to feel that safe when they go to school.

America, do we love our children as much as we love our sports? Just a thought I’m mulling over…

A Spirit Not of Fear

It’s a desperate place to be as a mother, knowing that my children are not safe in this world. There are always dangers, have been since the beginning of the time– but the dangers of living in this present world seem bigger, scarier, and less predictable.

In light of the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College, which happened just an hours drive from the where we live, I just want to hug my children close and never let them go. In my extremely illogical moments I wonder if I can create a huge, armored body suit with one big body but 14 arm holes, 14 leg holes, and 7 head holes that we can all wear in order to never, ever be apart. I want to be like Sally Field in Steel Magnolias and break down, screaming “I wanna know why! Why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyy??” Why is there so much hate buried deep in the hearts of so many people? Why is hate able to grow organize and gain strength, and why does hate think it has the right to break laws?  Why are there so many people with mental illness going without help and support? Why is it a trend in America to shoot up schools? Why did he think he had the right to rip ten innocent lives from this earth?

And the scariest question in my mind is, Where will it happen next?

My days since the shooting have been a mess of fear, sadness, and anxiety.

But I know it will not help me or my children to live in fear and paranoia. I will not live in fear, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Tim 1:7)

Power. I have the power to make the best decisions I can regarding the safety of my children. I vow to know where they are and who they are with, and I vow to keep them safe to the best of my ability. I have the power to prepare my family the best I can for whatever might come our way. I have the power to live my life in such a way that will remind my children and those around me that God is still at work in this scary world.

Love. I will love my children fiercely and forever. I will read to them, sing with them, play games and do puzzles with them, be silly with them, listen to them, hug and kiss them, and teach them about God, goodness, love, light and truth.

Self Control. I will not let my mind wander down rabbit trails of worry and paranoia. I will  cast my fears at Jesus’ feet. I will do something productive when I feel anxious.

As a mother and as a woman of faith I cannot let this tragedy scare me any more. The spirit of fear is not helpful or beneficial, and it’s not of God. Lord help me and all the mothers of America live in your spirit of power and love.

When your Step-Parenting has lost the Sparkle in its’ Step

I am a single mother of three. Soon I will be married to the man of my absolute most wonderful fairy-tale dreams, and with him come two beautiful young children who fit in age right between my own. People have joked that we are the Brady Bunch, but that’s so far from the truth. The Brady Bunch is a chocolate syrup and sprinkles, whipped cream and cherry, psychedelic mind trip compared to what actually happens when two families begin to blend into one. It’s messy, loud, and scary. There are more tears than you can imagine, more fights than ever before, more second guessing and even more stress to be the perfect parent. Here’s a recap of my life just a few weeks ago.

Five kids under nine, eleven long hours a day without Dad, and little old me. It was the last few weeks before summer vacation ended and the kids were at their craziest and crankiest. The sun was still a blazing hot summer one, the kids were hot and antsy. Add to the mix our impromptu move across town (actually a MAJOR BLESSING, albeit the terrible timing) and as one might imagine, this Mommy’s mind was slowly melting down. There were times during those few weeks that I could feel my body going into panic mode; days when I thought I might have a legit panic attack; days which by 10 am I was asking myself, “Is it too early for a glass of wine? Or a whole bottle?” I texted my future Mr. (father of approx. 1/3 of the little monsters) probably every hour for two straight weeks, grumbling, whining, freaking out over the cell-phone waves, just to relieve a little of the pressure that was building up in my head. He graciously calmed me down during his few quick text breaks at work.

I am new to being a (future) Step-Mom, and I am admitting to the world, it is HARD.

It’s hard when your children are hateful to, or jealous of, your step-kids, when all you want is for them all to get along like birth siblings. (An unreasonable expectation if you think it’s gonna happen within the first year!)

It’s hard when your step-kids figure out your hesitance to punish them and use that to their own advantage, doing things their bio parent would NEVER tolerate. (If you’re anything like me, it is terribly difficult give consequences to my future husband’s kids because I want so badly for them to like me. I’m a weenie, I know. I am slowly getting better at the use of logical consequences for my step-kids, but it’s a slow process.)

It’s hard when you get caught in a…  KID: “My Mom lets me do this at home.”          STEP PARENT: “I am sorry, but that is not how we do things here.” …back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.

It’s hard when, after a long, hard day trying your best to be the best Mom you can be, someone says, “I want my Moooooom,” or “I want my Daaaad.” And you think that you will never truly be Mom or Dad in their eyes, and rightfully so; they already have one.

I think it’s important to take a step back in all of  these moments. And I say this in hindsight–because while these things were happening to me, all I could think was, “Woe is me, this is hard, this is frustrating, this will NEVER WORK!” Today, looking back at those few weeks with a deep breath, I realize that all of those moments were NORMAL. They were the healthy growing pains of a new family being born into this world. Our step-family will meld and mesh little by little, week by week, tiny victory by tiny victory. This will slowly get better. And life will go on. And not only that, but while I was stressing and trying to process the crazy /difficult moments, I was too busy to really appreciate the moments of peace: the short stints of time when the oldest and youngest were playing nicely together and the moment that the strong-willed child in the mix decided to share her favorite toy with someone.

Being a parent is hard. Being a step parent is, in my opinion, harder. But the victories, sometimes so few and far between, deserve to be recognized and praised. It is a slow process, but like the Word says in Psalms, Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart…  It will get easier with time.

My blended family might never be a perfect one, but with patience and love (and deep breaths and wine!) we will someday grow into a strong, healthy blended family.

Step Parenting in Three Simple Steps

Dirt in the sink. Sand in his eye. A pinecone in her face. Yogurt spilled into the freshly prepped dinner. Swan dive off the top bunk. Doggy pile gone wrong. A slap to his face. A shove to her side. “It’s alllll YOUR fault!” A bucket of facial hair dumped on his head. (Don’t ask.) A pile of freshly mowed grass thrown on hers. “Don’t step on my PILLLLOOOOWWWW!!!!” Two tequila sunrises (For me, not them!). And all this before the day was half over.

Adulting is hard. Parenting is harder. Step Parenting? Off the charts. Like, 38 hour labor with no epidural coupled with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomit (Yep, both ends) HARD.

When my live in boyfriend (now fiance!) informed me that he would have his kids (whom we get to have over 3 nights a week) with him during the summer for two straight weeks, I was excited. The fact that I would be watching them single-handedly, along with taking care of my own three kids, while my boyfriend worked during the week, was minor. “I’ve got this,” I bragged to myself. “They are gonna be rock stars for me.” Never mind the fact that I’ve probably only had them alone maybe a handful of hours during our relationship.We spend lots of time together, of course. But Dad’s always there. He’s tough and strict, and I’m, well…not. I know they like me. But do they respect me? Will they listen to me and obey me? These are not questions I asked myself.

I should have.

As luck would have it, the first day I was to watch them alone started directly after we returned from the worst. family. vacation. EVER. Their Dad had planned an amazing weekend in Portland, complete with a stay at Embassy Suites, dinner out, swimming, FUN, a trip to OMSI, the Lego store, and lots of FUN, some FUN, and even more and more FUN. The vacation was to end with a trip to the jeweler to pick up my newly sized engagement rings. And then we would frolic off into a field of daises like the Brady Bunch. Well, as luck would have it, the kids decided to be urchins at the hotel, gremlins for dinner, and hellions at the mall. We ended up driving home in the morning, stressed and exhausted, no swimming, no Lego store, no OMSI, no fun. We got the rings, but I think on the way home we were both actually wondered (for a split second), do we REALLY want to do this?

The answer, of course, is YES, we absolutely do. But there’s no question, every day’s not gonna be like an episode of Full House. The issues have only just begun. Parenting Styles (He’s strict, I’m much too lenient.) and Sibling Dynamics (We’ve both got an “oldest” and an “youngest” who have their positions usurped every time we combine households.) are two of our main struggles, and there a million other things that pop up daily.

The advice I hear echoes: “Be consistent.” “Present a unified front.” “Make sure they know the rules.” “No playing favorites.”

Back to that first day I watched the kids on my own: I know I walked into it blind, and it didn’t go so well. But I also know it’s just the beginning. It’s going to take time, maybe even years, to build the bond I desire to have with my (future) step kids. In fact, according to a Focus on the Family article, (Find it here) realistically it will take anywhere from TWO to SEVEN years for a step family to truly integrate into what feels like a real family. Yikes.

I read a verse the other day that I found comfort in:An inheritance gained hurriedly at the

The verse tells me that a good inheritance cannot be rushed. Blending a family to make a beautiful whole from two halves can definitely be a beautiful thing, a good inheritance, but it will take time. Patience. Prayer. If you’re emotional like me, it will take some tears. Mistakes. Re-takes. Hugs. And more time. 

Oh yeah, as for my title, Step Parenting in Three Simple Steps…I don’t know what those steps are currently. I don’t have all–okay I don’t have any–of the answers yet. But I know the key lies in LOVE. I’m going to love the crap out of my kids, my fiance, my future step kids, and my God, and I’m going to try, and try, and try some more. I’ll take all the advice I can get, I’ll implement what works for my family, I’ll have success and victories, and I’ll also make mistakes and fail. I’ll wipe off the tears and I’ll pray, go to bed, wake up, and try again. Because that’s what love–love for my family and my future step family–does.