Conflicted

Last night I got to talk to my ex wife. Actually she’s my ex’ wife, but I affectionately call her my ex wife. She’s my boys’ step mom.

I like her. I like her a lot. I pray for her a lot too.

Dear Lord in heaven, please don’t let him screw this up. Protect her. Keep her safe. May she be a light to her husband and our children.

She’s been a blessing not only to my ex, but our children as well. I’m very grateful for her.

Last night we talked. My son, Justice, who now lives with them full time, is angry. He’s angry at me, but also very sad.

I was grateful she called.

He’s angry at me because for 12 years he has lived with me full time. He thinks I’ve kept him from his dad.

He doesn’t think it’s fair. He thinks it would only be fair, that since I got his childhood, his dad should get his teen years. That’s his black and white thinking.

But he’s sad. Yeah, we know he’s always sad, but she says it’s a different kind of sad. He misses his mom.

I miss him too.

What do I do? How do I explain to him I felt I was protecting him. How can I get him to understand that living with me was what I believed was in his best interest,  without bashing his dad?

I don’t want to share the details of my decision if sharing them hurts my son. Hurts their relationship. Hurts how he sees his dad.

Things are different now. I feel he is safe. His dad is in a better place. This is why he was eventually allowed to live there, instead of just come over.

I just don’t want to be the one to tell him why things have changed.

How conflicted he must be feeling. Being angry at me but also missing to be home. I hate that he’s hurting.

My ex wife is giving me a chance to talk with him this afternoon. What am I going to say?

You know my parents divorced. I wasn’t 14, but I was still living in their house. I stayed with my dad.

Both my parents have remarried since then. You know what was weird? Seeing them together. Not seeing my mom and dad together, but seeing my mom and her husband and my dad and his wife, all together.

Isn’t that weird? I’ve never seen them fight. I’ve never heard them speak badly about the other. I never felt like one parent was trying to persuade me not to love the other one.

I knew why they got divorced. I asked and my dad told me. He didn’t bash my mom. He didn’t let his emotions tell him what to say. He didn’t make her sound worse than what she really was. He was honest with me.

Maybe that’s how I need to be with Justice. I don’t need to bash his dad. I don’t need to let my emotions tell me what to say. I don’t need to make the reason he stayed with me worse than what it was.

Maybe I should just be honest with him. And if he’s still angry, then he’s angry. If he wants to still stay with his dad, he can stay with his dad.

But regardless, I’m going to hug him, and squeeze him, and tell him that I love him.

And whether he lives with me, or lives with his dad, or when he lives on his own…

I’m always, always going to try to protect him, look out for him, and maybe start being a little bit more honest with him.

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Some Days I Stand

Today was a beautiful day. I don’t want it to sound like I live for the days that Justice is home. I am grateful for every day day I get to spend with any of my kids.

But Justice is my tough cookie. He’s the one I can’t seem to influence. He’s also the one I only get four days a month with. I’m still learning how to be ok with that.

So it appears I spend more energy reaching out to him. But please know, I exhausts myself trying to connect with my kids, EVERY DAY.

Friday I went searching for something we could all enjoy. And I found it!

Geocaching!

If you are new to the game, here’s a brief synopsis. You need a geocaching app on your phone. You pick a cache that is where you would like to go. They are all over the world. Do you know how crazy that is? It’s amazing.

Then your phone acts like a compass and directs you to the general location of the cache.

A cache is typically a plastic container that is hidden by someone who has placed some sort of treasure inside that you can trade for, add to, or just look at.

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There is also a log. Everyone who has found the cache, writes their name and the date the cache was found.

I’m sure there are more complicated caches, but we’re new. This is what I’ve learned so far.

I have to say my kids LOVED it. Even the older ones. It was so great, finding something we could all do and enjoy.

It was a beautiful day because I not only connected with Justice, but with every one of my other kids too. It was amazing! Do you know how hard it is to engage five kids at the same time? (Tunes was at work.)

So it was a great day. It was an easy day. It was not messy. It was not emotional. It was a great family, memory day.

It was was a gift. Not everyday does it storm. Not everyday I’m on my knees.

Some days I stand with my hands held high in praise. I’m so grateful for that. It gives me hope. It builds my faith.

When Love Grows

Months before Mike and I were to be married, something disastrous started to happen. Something so horrific, I thought we were going to split. I told him, this was going to end us, and we sought help quick!

Our kids, who had once got along just fine, started to turn on each other. It was not pretty. I told Mike, if anything was going to destroy our marriage, it was going to be the kids.

I started taking inventory of my friends. Who has a large, blended family? I wanted a mentor. I wanted us to have someone who’s been through it all and has come out on the other side. Someone we could look up to and be inspired by. Someone who has beat the odds!

Nothing. Not one friend. No one even had a small blended family to look up too.

I needed someone to teach me how to become a united front with my husband and not fall into my kids manipulation as they pulled on my heart strings. And someone for Mike too! He was being pulled in the opposite direction by his kids as well. The kids were tearing us apart.

I needed someone to teach me to love these new little guys, unconditionally. You don’t just get married and wha la! These new kids are my offspring. I was very fond of them but these were the kids that were fighting with my kids and making them unhappy…which makes me, very unhappy. And Mike was just as miserable.

The stress level was ridiculous. And we weren’t even married yet!

We had no mentors, and we had statistics stacked up against us. We had to be crazy to go down this path. We needed help. We needed God.

The most explosive relationship was between Tunes and Smart. Tunes is seven years older than Smart. These two were so bad we made a rule that they couldn’t be alone in the same room together.

But in all honesty, Smart got his feelings hurt by Tunes. It’s why he would lash out. He wanted to look up to Tunes, but Tunes was too easily annoyed. When Tunes would snap, it hurt Smart. So, hurt people hurt. He wanted to hurt back.

They have spent the last three years avoiding each other.

Last week I got a call from Tunes letting me know he was going to walk to the gas station to get a soda. That’s fine. Not a big deal. No a big deal until I got home and asked where Smart was.

I’m not going to lie. When I was informed that Smart walked with Tunes I had a small heart attack. Nothing good could come of this, I’m sure!

You know what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened. Ok, we’ll maybe not nothing. They started to talk. They talked about video games. Huh, imagine that.

I can’t tell you what a huge day this was for me. For my family. My big ol’, large, blended, whole family.

Mike and I work so hard to hold us together. There are so many forces that are trying to tear us apart, outside as well as inside.

Mike and I receive subtle messages every day that we’re screwing this up. That we are doing it wrong. That no one is happy. But when something like this happens we see a glimmer of hope.

We have faith. Sometimes for just one second. Maybe our prayers are working. Maybe, just maybe everything will work out just fine.

In the midst of all the drama, all the heartache, all the conflict, something changes. Something goes right. And it makes me so happy! It makes everything so worth it.

There is love here in this house. Sometimes it’s hard to see. Sometimes it looks like quite the opposite. But last week my sons walked to get a soda together. And last night Tunes looked over Smarts shoulder to take a look at the problem he was having with his homework.

That’s all Jesus right there. Right there in my kitchen, I saw Jesus. It was beautiful. He gives me hope. He builds my faith. He grows…love.

The Pursuit

Do you know how much God loves us? It was not until I have lost my son, that I realize how much He pursues me. He wants me to love him back, not because He is so big, so powerful, because He gives me life or that He demands it. He wants me to freely choose to love Him back.

Love Him with no guilt. No threat. No persuasion, No manipulation.

Today was especially hard for me. I had my son, but even though we had a beautiful day yesterday, he couldn’t wait to go back home to his dad’s house, today. I became so bitter. So angry. So resentful. I wanted to guilt him. I wanted to cry and let him see how much he was hurting me. I wanted him to feel bad, as bad as I was feeling.

I know how I was reacting wasn’t Christ-like. But I have to believe what I was feeling, was. I am after all, made after Him.

He made us. He gave us life. He breathed into us. He walked in the garden with us. He gave us everything we would ever need. He found joy in us.

And then one day, we were gone.

How quickly we started to resent. How quickly we started to forget.

I know how devastating this had to have been on Him.

I lost my son.

One day, he was here. One day, I prayed with him every night. One day, I gave him everything he needed. One day, I laughed and cried with him. And then one day, he was gone.

Not because he was taken. Not because he was lost. No, because he chose to leave.

Oh how God’s heart must hurt when he sees His children not choosing to be with Him. Or those who chose to walk away and then return, as if nothing had happened. Or those who may believe there is a God, but they don’t need Him. And worse yet, those who never seek to be with Him.

There are a few places in the Bible I have seen where God grieves for his children. But mostly I see how He loves. So maybe that’s what I’m suppose to focus on with my son. Instead of grieving him, maybe I should be loving him.

But what does that look like? What does it look like, when he wants to go to his dad’s? What does it look like when he tells me how much he doesn’t want to be here with me, and then acts like nothing hurtful was said?

I feel he doesn’t want a relationship with me. So what does loving someone who doesn’t want to be loved look like?

Peter says, God is patiently waiting for us, because He wants everyone to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Maybe I should be patient.

And while we were still sinners, He sent His son to die for us (Romans 5:8). Maybe I should get over myself and continue to do what is best for him.

I believe God responds out of love, not out of hurt.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

Did you know we, His children, are the pearl? I had always believed that God was the pearl. It’s not true. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I need to love my son. I need to love my son, even when he’s being unlovable.

I want my son. I want to pursue my son. Not with guilt. Not with threats. Not with persuasion. And certainly not with manipulation. That’s not choosing to love me.

I want to love as Christ loves. I want to pursue as God has. I want to believe, in the end, everything will be, as it should. Because I have faith that God is working in us both. And I believe if I continue to pursue he will come back just like I have returned to Him.

When Your Village Is Hostile

They say it takes a village. I love that concept and totally believe it works. But what if your village is hostile?

Our family is blended.

It’s funny, it’s such a simple label for a very complicated reality.

I have four kiddos. Three boys who have one father, who has since remarried. I also have a daughter who’s father is not allowed to be apart of her life.

This alone is complicated since the boys have a second home that comes with two sets of parents, a couple sets of step siblings and a few sets of grandparents.

My daughter just has me, and the extended family that comes with me.

Now Mike has a couple of kiddos so they also have a second home with a mom, half siblings and a couple sets of grandparents too.

I’d say we definitely have a built in village.

I’d love to say it’s a friendly, well  adjusted, harmonious village, but who am I kidding?  However, that being said, I do believe for the most part, all three sets of parents work relatively well together.

I’ve seen sets of parents just be completely horrific towards each other and really it just destroys their kids.

Our current situation involves my boys with me for one week and then their dad for one week.

My daughter is stuck with us everyday. She doesn’t get to have two birthday parties or two Christmas’. (See, blended families have their advantages.)

One of Mike’s boys is with us Monday through Thursday, then with his mom Thursday night till Monday morning. And his other boy is with his mom the whole week, but with us every other weekend….for now. Starting in January they will be with us full time again. Yeah, it changes.

Blended families are tough. They’re not fair to the kids. In fact, spelling it all out, like I have, I wonder how it even works!

Thank God for His grace. Without it, this wouldn’t work. It’s one more way He brings me to my knees.

There are times when we don’t all agree with on their priorities. There are times when we’re all so angry at each other because we parent differently and there are times when we are so angry at the kids, because they know how to play us against one another.

We have a village. It may not be the best village, but I know that each adult involve takes a special interest in each one of our kids. That means something.

And when it is the most difficult, I have to remember that they are just doing their best, like I’m trying to do my best.

Finding Our Voice

I think it was two days ago when my daughter started telling me about a boy in class who liked her. She was laughing and giggling as she told me so I was thinking this was normal kid stuff. She told me he asked her if she wanted to date and she didn’t know what to say to him. I told her to tell him she’s too young to date, so no.

Then yesterday she showed me a note. At first I just dismissed her thinking she was talking to me like one of her girlfriend and I don’t do that well. I told her again to tell him she’s too young but she got upset and said she didn’t know how too. She said she was afraid he would embarrass her and be mean to her.

I then took the note from her and became upset myself. He kept asking her over and over if she would date him, yes or no. She kept responding “idk” and “I have to ask my mom”. He told her he would take her to Jump Street and to keep it a secret. Then he drew a heart and said he liked her. She responded with, ‘awkward’. She said at this point she was going to write “no, I’m too young”, when her teacher caught her and she put the note away.

What upset me the most was him telling her to keep it a secret. What upset me most about my behavior was I almost did nothing even though I could see she was upset and she told me she had been crying over it. She tends to be highly dramatic and the whole thing was triggering me from my past hurts.

This morning I woke her up and told her we would go tell her teacher together. I wrote a note, and included his note, incase I wasn’t able to talk to her this morning. Well I was able too but still so glad I had written the note because I completely fell apart. We even asked my daughter to leave the room for a bit so she wouldn’t see me like that. I didn’t want her to feel bad for reporting him to her teacher. It was during this moment when I realized I have to teach her how to use her voice, which made me so sad but it also triggered me back to when I was a child and my voice was taken.

I told her teacher that my “Danger Meter” was broken from when I was a child and that I didn’t want to get the boy into any trouble if this was all just innocent, but that she was very upset by it so we wanted to come forward. She told me this student does have other issues and that the threat was real. This would be one more thing they will need to be addressing with him. She said she understood her being scared because he could be aggressive to adults too. She is moving her away from him, and he won’t be able to communicate with her. She’s going to inform her other teacher, principal and his parents about the incident as well.

I can’t tell you how proud of her I am. I told her she is an awesome little girl and boys are going to be attracted to her awesomeness too. But that doesn’t mean she has to be less awesome so she won’t attract this kind of attention. Don’t let them take your awesomeness.

Today We Became A Family

Our boys, I tell you, they find it so difficult to get along with each other. And forget about getting them to help each other out. Not a chance. They are all out for themselves. It drives me crazy. None of them were raised that way. We’re constantly on them about helping their brothers, watching out for each other; sometimes just being nice is a stretch for them. But today! Today, I watched my boys and Mike’s boys turn into brothers.

This is the first weekend in years that we’ve had all the kids home at the same time. Butterfly and I went to the library for this thing she has on Saturdays. We asked everyone if they would like to come. They never do, but we still ask. My husband was at work. We had no idea when he would be home.

We were probably there for 10 minutes when I received a call from my oldest son that our house was on fire! I think what scared my daughter the most was I was running. She’s NEVER seen me run. Even though I told her everything was fine, we just needed to get home, she was pretty upset.

When we arrived I was greeted with crying kids, excited kids, and agitated kids, but I got to tell you, when I got the full story, I was such a proud momma of all my kids. THEY ARE ROCKSTARS!

Once Tunes realized that maybe the smoke detector wasn’t really trying to be annoying, but trying to tell him something, he found flames coming from our laundry room. He immediately started getting the kids out of the house and after calling 911, he called me to let me know the house was on fire, but everyone was fine. It was easy not to panic when I heard his voice. I could hear he had everything under control.

Justice…boy I don’t even know what got into him. Fire Chief asked who was the kid with the hose. The what? He wanted to shake Justice’s hand. He said if it wasn’t for him, we could have lost our house. Yeah, but I could have lost my son!

Gamer, he was the one helping Justice. He turned the water on and off for him. He also was who was taking care of our dog, Tank.

Fun and Smart…well they were actually listening to what the older kids where telling them…or yelling at them. They were awesome. This never happens either.

Now I may never be able to brag about my kids’ awesome grades. They may never be known for being gracious or generous. But I tell you what; they are fearless. They are the kids you want to go to and be with in times of trouble. They act fast and they DO work together.

This is the first traumatic experience they have had to face alone, and instead of acting separate, instead of dodging responsibility, instead of acting on their own, they came together, they problem solved, they protected each other and their home. They became a family. There was no us against them. There was no, I didn’t do it, you’re on your own. No. They were brothers.

I’m so stinkin proud of my boys! Of the brothers.

When I first got the call, I wasn’t able to reach my husband. I kept him informed via text though, not being sure when he was going to get them. He finally called me to make sure everyone was ok. I told him we were. He then said he was going to finish up what little work he had left. His Super asked him why he didn’t leave to get home?

He told them, “I don’t need to. I just talked to my wife. My family’s got it under control.”