Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Reflections

It's the last day of 2014.  As we go into this next year, there are changes I want to make for a better year for my family and me.  I have resolutions for moving forward, but I also want to take time to reflect back. 

Here's a few questions I found on this website  to help me reflect on 2014 to assist with looking towards 2015....
  1. What did you do this year that you have never done before? Travel to France with my husband on my annual trip with my students.  Having him there made it the best experience! Standing on top of the Eiffel Tower with very best friend?  Best moment of 2014. 
  2. What was the smartest decision you made this year? Moving into the home we now have.  Love it here!
  3. What one word best sums up and describes your experience last year?  Learning
  4. What are you most grateful for this past year?  Rob's love and support.  Corny, yes, but true
  5. What do you wish you had done more of?  Traveled alone with Rob.  One day, we'll get a honeymoon. 
  6. What do you wish you had done less of?  Allowed anxiety to control a situation and feel stressed.  Also, spent less time consumed by the cell phone (note--new year's resolution number 1)
  7. Knowing what you know now, if you could write a letter to yourself that would travel back in time so that you would receive exactly one year ago, what advice would you give yourself?  Know that it will all work out in the end.  Don't let the anxiety and fear of what could happen affect the current situation. 
  8. Who were the three people who had the greatest impact on your life last year?  My amazing husband Rob, best friend Nikki, my loving mother Sharon
  9. Did anyone close to you give birth?  No
  10. Did anyone close to you die?  Thank goodness, no. 
  11. What important relationship improved the most?  My husband.  Being newlyweds was incredible!  Fell more in love with him each day during 2014. 
  12. What important relationship suffered the most?  Co-parenting relationship
  13. Whose behavior or what event merited celebration? 12.  She truly took on being a big sister to the little girls, matured, grew in her relationship with me, and became the most helpful person we have in this house.  She is a quirky fun kid who makes my life better.   I'm so proud to be her stepmom!
  14. Whose behavior or what event appalled you?  Oh, I'll leave that off the blog.  I don't believe this person reads this blog, but I have to watch what I say.  No, it has nothing to do with #12.  However, it was ridiculous and most definitely appalling. 
  15. How did you positively influence a child (or the next generation) this year?  Teaching.  I have the greatest students and love my job daily.  Not every aspect of my job, but I still find joy in it daily.  Students at the end of last year wrote me notes of thanks telling me how I changed their life.  I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my career. 
  16. What well-known person, dead or alive, influenced you the most this year?  God.  I've become more in touch with my faith over the past almost three years.  It's a journey I didn't think possible after feeling like I lost my faith completely.  Prayer has become a part of my daily routine as it once had been up until Maggie was born.  Rob and I became youth leaders in our church this year and it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences we've had as a couple.  We love our Wednesday nights and the people we've met through leadership.  We love our students and the meaningful conversations we have with them.  I know it has made us a stronger couple.  I often feel inadequate because of my past, but God is showing me that it is enough. 
  17. Who made you laugh the most this year?  My daughter, Katie.   Funniest person I've ever met in my life.  She spent the better part of an hour today with a (clean!) pair of underwear on her head singing Frozen while pretending she was a dog. 
  18. What were your favorite TV programs?  We watch very little TV, but love Impractical Jokers on TruTV.  Rob and I will watch late at night for a laugh before bed.  Absolutely hilarious!
  19. What were your favorite books?  I read a lot more this year than in the past few years.  From self-help to young adult books my kids and students are reading, I found a little more time to read.  It's been nice. 
  20. What was your biggest musical or art discovery?  Three musicals that my kids were in!  12 was the LEAD in the high school show of the Music Man.  Maggie had two small parts in Ever After and Annie Jr at the children's theatre.  I love watching them perform!  We were blown away with 12's performance.  We're continually impressed with the quality of productions of the children's theatre. 
  21. What was your favorite movie this year?  I know I'm an adult, but I have to say Annie 2014.  It was my all time favorite movie as a child and I LOVED the new version.  12 teased me for crying! 
  22. What song will always remind you of this year?  I Lived, OneRepublic.  I took 16, her friend, and two of my friends to their concert down in Austin this August then used the song on the first day of school in my classroom. 
  23. What musical artist did you listen to the most this year?  Probably Eric Hutchinson or Ben Folds
  24. Did you attend any concerts, plays, or art events this year?  Yes, but I would have loved to do even more!  Concerts included Eric Hutchinson (our favorite just me and the man), Ben Folds, Parachute, OneRepublic, Brendan James.  Lots of plays, especially at te children's theatre.  Maggie has done two shows with them this year plus I've seen performances of my students multiple times.  I would love to have season passes to Dallas Summer Musicals as well, but the price is a little more than I have to spend on me right now. 
  25. What did you wear often in your closet?  Anything with a cardigan, maxi skirt, or skinny jeans and boots
  26. What was your hair style this year?  Long and straight.  It has gotten REALLY long this year!
  27. What did you really, really, really get excited about this year?  Larissa, my co-founder, becoming the new Executive Director of Heroes for Children and me becoming the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors.  We celebrated our TENTH year as an organization with a big celebration in November, and we have our 10 year fundraiser in March.  Good things to come for HFC!
  28. How old did you turn on your birthday?  36.  About to turn 37 in January
  29. How did you celebrate your birthday this year?  At Great Wolf Lodge celebrating mine, Katie's and 16's all together.  It was so much fun! 12 begged us (over and over) for over a year to go.  We told her she was not allowed to even ASK to go for another year.  She knows that restriction is up on my birthday and I'm sure she'll be ready to ask as soon as possible! :) 
  30. Did anyone close to you have an important milestone birthday?  Oldest stepdaughter turned 16!  She got Dad's old car and started driving.  I think it's hitting Rob hard how quickly the time is passing and how little we have left before she is in college.  They are planning college visits for the Spring together. 
  31. How did you spend the holidays?  We volunteered with an organization called the SoupMobile on Christmas Eve with the big girls.  It took in 500 homeless men, women and children in Dallas and put them up at the Dallas Omni Hotel overnight.  It was an amazing experience.  Christmas Day was a little odd because we were opposite on our schedules.  Didn't get the littles until 3pm so we made the bigs wait until they came home (yes, that is what we call them all the time).  Three hours of present opening ensued.  My favorite part was watching the excitement they all showed towards one another when opening gifts.  They loved seeing what each got and complimenting each other.  These girls love each other so much! We attempted to do family pictures on the 26th before we took the littles back to their dad, but Katie was not behaving her finest.  Maybe a few turned out ok!
  32. How will you be spending New Year's?  At home.  My husband had surgery on Monday, so he's recovering.  Having a "Girl Party" with Maggie, Katie, and Maggie's friend.  First time Maggie has been allowed to stay up late.  We have plans for every hour.  She is making us dress up and curl our hair.  We have crafts, games, sparkling grape juice, movies, their favorite dinner (Cheez-It chicken) and dessert (apple nachos) to keep us happy.  I am assuming Rob will be asleep or at least hiding downstairs in bed. 
  33. I missed...  My dad.  I would have loved him to know Rob.  They would have gotten along so well.  Allie.  I always miss Allie. 
  34. I would use a magic wand to change... my finances.  Wouldn't that be great!  HA
  35. I want to repeat... The terrific summer we had as a family. 
  36. I lost.... my battle with Adult ADD--started medication this year to help me focus a little better.  I can't say I've seen a great improvement year.  I often forget to take the medication!
  37. I gained...  even more respect for my mom as I watched her be sworn as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Child Protective Services.  She asked me to be her guest to see her at the swearing in ceremony with the judge.  I cried watching this woman I love knowing all the good she will do for this organization.  So proud of my mom!
  38. I regret...  allowing anxiety to affect me from time to time.  Panic attacks are not fun!
  39. I am thankful for... my friends and family who make my life better each day.  I've learned so much this year.  It's easily been one of the biggest years of personal growth for me.  The year wasn't exactly what I anticipated for unforeseen reasons, but in the end, it was a good one.  I still have a lot to learn about being a wife, mom, stepmom to this family and how I can make the most of it all.  Of course, I'll probably be saying that every year of my life to come!
  40. I felt most alive when... my house was filled with all four children together.  My most favorite thing in the world!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Year

This was us a year ago today...

Saying those two little words was the easiest thing I've ever done. Marrying Rob was the best decision I've ever made. He's my rock, my love, my best friend, my secret keeper, my best cheerleader, and my companion. He makes me happy beyond measure.

Our life can certainly have it's challenges, but it has three times as many rewards. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Looking forward to our next year and all the years to come spending time beside one another. Today was our last full day with our big girls before they return to Oklahoma midday tomorrow. The little girls return at noon tomorrow. No date for us to celebrate until sometime in January, but we don't care. We've hung out with the kids, laughed, and enjoyed our family.

I don't need much for my anniversary--just the man I'm thankfully married to.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sisters, Blended Family Style

Love these awesome girls!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dear Summer, Don't Go....

Tomorrow, I have my first meeting for department heads.  Tuesday night, an hour meeting for foreign language leadership in the district.  Wednesday, training to return as the new Peer Assistance and Leadership teacher at my school (can't wait--taught it years ago).  Thursday, it's back full time. 

The summer is gone.  I'm not ready. 

Sure, the heat and the sweatiness will stick around (hi, we live in Texas), but the long days with my girls and extra family time are gone.  I have absolutely LOVED being a stay at home mom this summer.  Those are words I never thought I would hear.  I have been cleaning, cooking, mowing the grass, decorating the house, having adventures with the kids, and doing extra things around the house to help my husband.  Tonight, I just finished my job as "props and backstage mom" for Maggie's major production at the Plano Children's Theatre.  This was a two week intensive camp with six performances--we're whooped! 

Once school starts back, it'll be hectic around here.  Gone are our leisurely mornings where I tell the kids they can't come in my room until 9am (they get up before 7 and play quietly in the toy closet in Sissy's room together) then we all snuggle.  Gone are extended visitation with the big girls, with them having started school back last Wednesday up in Oklahoma.  We're back to just weekends now.  Gone is the ease of walking upstairs in the middle of the day to kiss my husband while he's working at his home office. 

I think it's surprised me how much I really did enjoy being so "domestic" here at the house.  Cooking?  Not my thing.  Making the bed on a regular basis?  Really, is anyone going to see it, come on.  Mowing the grass?  Man's job.  NOPE.  I have been doing it all and finding pleasure in taking care of my family in this way.  I've found several new recipes (BLESS YOU PINTEREST) that most of my family will eat.  It's hit or miss if we can get Katie to eat it, that picky little stinker. 

So, now it's time to find that balance between mom/teacher/wife/me.  I'll be ready for the students and the new school year eventually.  For now, I'm mourning the end of this terrific summer. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stepmom

For the past seven months, I have been a stepmom. 

Confession--most of the time, I think I'm failing.  

My stepdaughters live three hours away.  We don't have them during the week, drive them to appointments, or get to go to school functions easily.  Seeing a choir concert is a 6 plus hour drive for us (and we've done it multiple times this year), so it's not easy.  We miss the big girls and we spend more time with the little girls with them here in Texas with us.  Our blended family is busy and I struggle daily to juggle it all. 

Being a mom is HARD.  It's exhausting and it is full of demands.  Being a stepmom?  I had no idea how much harder.  You don't have the unconditional love of the child you've known since she squeaked in your arms moments after birth.  You don't have the child who wants to curl up in your lap or have special mama/daughter time with you.  You don't have the child that knows that even if you get frustrated with them, you love them to the depths of your soul.  You have the child who never wanted you in her life in the first place and always knows her mother can do it better (and she can, they have a great mom).  

I'm never first choice.  In the line of four parents, I'm fourth.  No doubt.  I'm learning to accept this. 

It hurt at first because I so wanted the girls to love me.  I so wanted them to want to spend time with me or want to communicate with me.  I got my feelings hurt.  A lot.  I responded poorly.  A lot.  I tried.  Over and over.  I still try.  Sometimes it's met with terrific results and I cry because I think "they like me!  maybe they can love me!"  Sometimes it feels like we are right back to square one and I cry because I wonder if I'll ever stop wondering if they actually hate me (sidenote--I don't believe they really hate me, it's just my own fear creeping in).  

Step-parenting feels like a dance--it's very one step forward and one step back. OK, two steps back. 

Being a stepmom has it's incredible rewards.  My stepdaughters are amazing.  They are talented and funny.  I've learned a lot from them.  They are terrific big sisters to my girls, and do not see the boundary of step when it comes to Maggie and Katie.  Those are their sisters and they adore them.  We can laugh so much as a family and have developed our own inside jokes that are just for our family of six.  I love my stepdaughters.  I love them so much and I'm crazy proud of them. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not unhappy.  It's been a terrific summer with his12 year old here with us for a month.  16 only joined us for a week because she was working all summer at the frozen yogurt shop in her town. It was hard to not have her here with us.  We can't make her come and we accept that she is working with responsibilities now.   I made it my goal that 12 would have a good summer.  We had playdates with her favorite Texas friends, sleepovers and a trip to the water park.  We took one friend and the three of our younger ones to a cabin on Possum Kingdom lake for a week and have a blast.  At the end, she rated the summer a 9 out of 10.  We had our bumps in the road, but in the end, it was a great summer.  We miss her already!

Most importantly, I love their father.  I love this family and no matter how long it takes, I am committed to this blended family. So, I'm a stepmom. 

Are you in a stepcouple?  How long?  What advice do you have to someone still gaining her footing in this new dynamic?  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Early Father's Day with all his girls

So lucky to raise children with this man. Celebrated Father's Day yesterday because we will be in France on the actual date.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

Historically, Mother's Day has not been my favorite.  My first Mother's Day ten years ago was the day they transferred my precious baby from the PICU to the transplant unit.  My second, I was a pregnant grieving mother.  Over the years, it wasn't usually a good experience.  Even last year, it wasn't great, as Rob shared something we me (that I needed to know) which ruined my mood for the day.  So, as usual, my hopes weren't high for a great day.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I didn't get a day, I got the best weekend with my sweet family and felt more loved than ever. 

Rob is the BEST at sending flower.  My front office staff always rave about how I get the most flowers.  He sends them for our anniversary, my birthday, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and usually just once just because.  His cards are usually my favorite part.  Rarely do I not cry when I read his words.  Most of them are hanging on my board next to my desk at work.  Three are across the bottom of the computer monitor.  Friday morning started off with a lovely bouquet of flowers, including my favorite lillies.  He knows me well.

An easy home night was perfect Friday night with the four of us. Saturday was a big family night, hosted for the first time in OUR NEW HOME (Yay!!  We love it!).  My mom, grandma, brother, his wife and daughter all joined us for an easy fun night where the volume of three children quickly sounded more like eight. 

Finally came Mother's Day.  It was more than I could have asked for.  Maggie and Katie showered me with hugs and kisses.  Maggie wrote me two beautiful letters at school and Katie's preschool teacher had a sweet letter she helped Katie write.  Oh, these girls.  What a blessing it is to be their mother.  We went out for an adventure.  All I ever wanted for Mother's Day was a family day planned for me.  Rarely did this ever happen.  It did this time.  We went to church as a family, out to brunch, then headed down to the Dallas Arboretum.  There was a free outdoor concert from the US Navy Band and tons of fun with the kids.  By the time we got home, we decided a leftover night was exactly what we needed. They gave me some thoughtful gifts that the girls picked out themselves and the new rolling kitchen cart I've been wanting.  Then, I was sent to relax in bed!  YES! 

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who celebrated.  Thank you to the three loves of my life who made me feel important and loved.  Doesn't everyone deserve that?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thirteen

My first baby girl turned 13 today! Brandy was five weeks old when I brought her little butterball self home.  (Seriously, is there anything cuter than a golden retriever puppy?  No, I don't think so).  Since then, this dog has been MY baby.  She's been with me through the birth of all my babies, the death of one of my babies, two major careers, three houses, one divorce, one remarriage, and so much more.  It's impossible to describe how thankful I am for my sweet companion.  I don't know how much longer our BB will be with us, so I want to cherish my time with her.  You can see her age now.  Not just in her completely white face either.  She struggles to get back up when she's been lying down for long periods of time.  She rests most of the time though you will occasionally still seen some spark in her.  She's slower and falls easily.  She doesn't hoard socks like she used to or bring you random stuff when you call her name, but she'll still find ways to get into mischief from time to time!

Happy birthday, my puppy.  


Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Update

It seems that every time I blog that something is good, no, more than good, something quickly goes wrong.  Two days after my "Enjoying married life" blog post, life changed for us again.  I can't blog about it now, but I will tell you that things have been very challenging for us as a family.  We have struggled together with our anger towards others (specific, yes, but again, that's not for now), and we have felt more stress and pressure than any other time in our relationship.  In no way did we see this coming and we still struggle with the shock of it all as well. 

Things are not better yet and we're fighting like hell to keep our marriage safe from the crap that is happening.  We're giving each other as much love as possible.  We're giving each other as much understanding when we are dealing with emotions.  This man I married?  MY ROCK.  I am his I know as well.  We will not let this shake us or steal our joy. 

I just ask now for peace and guidance.  Sends us your happy thoughts and prayers, please.

So, moving on from that give an update on the GOOD things--

  • 16 got her first job!  She's working hard at a frozen yogurt place.  Unfortunately, it does cut her visiting here in Texas down more.  She only visited half of her Spring Break while we had 11 the entire time.  We all went to Oklahoma during our Spring Break and got to see her work.  Rob kept muttering "my baby" over and over.  Sweet to see him swell with such pride.
  • Brandy turns 13 next month!  I can't believe that my first baby is now so old.  She is still my sweet love, though sometimes I think Katie and I are the only two who still adore her as much (she can be a little high maintenance).
  • Katie has been trying soccer this season.  It could easily be the funniest 45 minutes of our week.  Our team, the Pink Ladybugs, is not exactly focused on the game.  These girls all go to preschool together and they are not all very athletic.  Water breaks and snacks are way more important than soccer goals. 
  • Maggie is loving 2nd grade!  She continues to work harder and is just blossoming.  She loves her Girl Scout troop and all the activities.  She's found two best friends who she just clicks with so well.  It's so awesome to watch her flourish lately.  She's really growing up. 
  • School has been a long year for me.  I am the department head and have a guy on my team that has sucked up a lot of time and energy.  He is not easy to deal with and has caused more headaches during my work day.  However, my teaching and my classroom has never been better.  It's a trade off. 
  • Rob will be celebrating 25 years of being in the military in July.  It's amazing to me to see his unfaltering commitment to serving our country.  I couldn't be more proud. 
  • 11 has really become the most loving big sister to the little girls!  She struggled at first, especially with not being the baby of the family.  Now, she steps in to be the helper when she is here to visit and the little girls are home too.  It's not frequent that it overlaps (only tonight this weekend because 11 is staying with us an extra day due to her school district having no school tomorrow).  She played with them during family dinner, helped them in the bath, and told them a story to tuck them into bed.  We try to compliment her often about how loving she has become with them. 
  • France is just around the corner.  We have a great group of students and parents traveling again this year.  I can't wait because my husband gets to go as a chaperone as well.  It will be his first time to travel abroad, with the exception of two tours to Iraq.  We will visit the D-Day beaches and American cemetery one week after the 75th anniversary of the landing.  Cannot wait to share this experience and a place I love so much with him!
FINALLY....
  • We got a house!  We have been living in our apartment for almost two months now.  Thankfully, it is a really large apartment with plenty of space.  Like I said, we rarely have all four girls together.  It was two nights in all of March and only one night in April coming up.  However, we are SO excited to have a house we move into together.  Most of my things are still in storage, so we will be able to fully join our belongings.  The big girls have been helping come up with designs for decorating.  11 is working on an art project of creating these storage crates/seats for our media room right now!  I bought canvases for 16 to paint for a large photo collage wall she and I are creatingld  (you should see this kid's artistic talent--blows me away!).  They created a board on Pinterest for us all to pin house ideas to.  May 1st will be here before we know it and everyone is very ready.

Thanks for checking in.  All in all, we're good.  We're going to be good.  We have good kids and a good marriage.  Better than good--GREAT.   

PS--thanks for your comments and constant encouragement.  It always means a lot to me.  I ask that you please help me by just keeping everything positive right now.  If I can share one day what happened, I will.  If not, just know that your support and positivity will make more of a difference than anything else. Thanks!  --Jenny

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

Enjoying the married life

I feel like every time I come to blog, I need to begin with an apology.  I'm so sorry it has taken so long for an update! Life is finally looking as though it will stabilize a bit for a while after the crazy of the past two months.

Two days after Thanksgiving, Rob and I went on a date.  We went out to dinner at RA Sushi for our favorite happy hour sushi.  Afterwards, he walked me to the bench where we sat on our first date.  Where we had our first kiss.  We snuggled for probably close to an hour, discussing our dreams for the future and our happiness in the present.  It was romantic and perfect.  I commented that it was my favorite spot for us to go and forget the rest of the world.  Just be us.  I love that we go back to that bench for random date nights.  I snuggled up and told him that I loved the bench and being there with him tonight.  That's when he said, "Yeah, who knows, maybe this is where we get engaged."  With that, he stood up, got down on his knee and said the sweetest words to ask me to be his wife. 

The engagement was quick and easy with very little stress.  We knew we didn't want a big wedding, just us and the four most important people in our world.  The wedding was exactly what we wanted.  Two days after Christmas, we became Mr. and Mrs. in front of my friend Johnny who is a federal judge, the amazingly talented Ann Beck, and our beautiful daughters.   The morning of our wedding was actually our Christmas morning with all four together.  We had a big pancake breakfast then finally decided it was time to get dressed and ready for the wedding.  The ceremony was absolutely PERFECT.  Nothing can fully describe how it was for us.  Both of us cried.  The big girls and Maggie each read a little part during the ceremony while Katie stood in between us as we engaged vows.  I stared at my husband and felt nothing but love and safety next to him.

Here are a few pictures from our wedding. A million thank you's to Ann Beck Photography for capturing these moments for our family of six











Instead of a reception or party, we opted for something very intimate and simple.  We invited a few closest friends and family from all areas of our life to join us for a dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  We told them that we would pay for a room and the cake if each family would pay for their own dinners.  No one complained about this plan.  We had 40 people in attendance, with about 15 of them being children.  It was such fun!  We loved getting to visit with everyone we love.  We tried to stay at each other's sides throughout the night.  I loved talking to someone and turning to feel my husband with his hand on my hip and a kiss on the cheek.  Have I told you how crazy in love with this man I am? 

Since the wedding, life hasn't slown down.  We didn't take a honeymoon.  Instead, we spent four nights and five days at a lakehouse cabin with us and the big girls for New Year's.  We had a terrific time and no one was ready to leave!  Rob and I met his two brothers, sister, their spouses, his aunt and cousin for a big surprise birthday weekend for his mom and dad in Charleston.  Then came birthday extravaganza!  Three of six of us--me, 16 (eek, she's 16 now!) and Katie--all have January birthdays.  We spent one weekend at Great Wolf Lodge courtesy of a wedding gift from a family member.  It was a blast but oh so exhausting. 

And then came the move. Oh, the move.  No movers, just us and a few friends helping along the way.  It's been stressful to get it all done and figure out our temporary living situation here at the apartment.  It's a tight little spot for us and sweet old Brandy had to move in with my mom for the time being (she can't handle the outside staircase), but we're happy to all be together.  

All in all, life is good.  No, great.  Life is better than ever and I'm so thankful for being where we are today.  

Love my husband.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014