How it’s Suppose to Be

It’s been five months now, that Tunes has left our house. I miss him a lot.

A few weeks ago my husband cleared out his room. It was time. What he didn’t take with him are packed in bags and secure in our garage.

We played around with ideas about what to do with his room. I even briefly dreamt of a craft room for myself, but know I still have too many kids at home for that.

Ultimately, we decided to separate our next two oldest boys. They’re both in highschool now and could use the space and privacy. It was a good decision.

When the room was cleared out, my awesome husband also patched his walls and painted. This last weekend he ripped out all the old carpet that came with the house when I bought it, and laid down the same flooring he installed in the other public areas of the house. It looks very nice, very clean.

We bought some room darkening shades he’s going to install and he mentioned we still needed to buy a ceiling fan because it got so hot in there while he was working.

I agreed. Tunes often complained how hot it was in his room.

(Deep sigh.)

I told my husband I loved everything he’s doing to the room. It looks great, but it also upsets me.

He immediately tried to console and told me what he was doing in Gamer’s room, he also planned to do to the other kids’ rooms as well.

That wasn’t it.

This was Tunes’ room. For eight years my little boy slept there, changed there, was sent there. He lived there. It was his.

There were holes in the wall where he hung his TV up, only to move it and to move it again.

There was a big pink stain from some kind of an experiment he was working on that he couldn’t get cleaned up, or hidden.

The curtain rod was wobbly and bent from all the weight of the many blankets he would drape over it to block the light out and then, since his bed was up against the window, would lean on and pull down. I swore he was going to fall through that window some day.

I just feel sad. I feel I let him down. I never got around to making his room nice before he left. I wanted to do that for him. Just like so many other things I wanted to do for him but didn’t. He was in too much of a hurry to get out.

I hope he knows I would have. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, or didn’t think he was important. I just thought I had more time.

I didn’t leave “my” house until I was 23. I was working and going to college. But by then, my mom had already left. My parents were on the path of divorce. Which was fine with me. She had lived there, but really she had been gone for years.

Maybe that’s the difference. I’m here. I’ve always been here. I’ll always be here.

I don’t know. Maybe this is the way it’s supposed be.

He’s doing really well, from what he’s told me. He’s struggling, but managing.

Everything he’s doing just seems really scary to me. I’m glad he’s not controlled by my fear. I’m proud of him for facing his own.

Today, Justice came home from his dad’s and saw what has been done to the room. He joked with me and asked,

“Hey mom, what’s Gamer doing in Tunes’ room?”

Yeah, I don’t really know. But I’m happy for him. I’m happy for them both.

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These Kids!

A time has come that I have just as many teenagers in the house, as I do, little kids. It sucks.

I have a kid who’s running a snack shop out of a second backpack that he takes to school. Mind you, this is not something I authorized.

He just took his birthday money as seed money and bought his inventory that rivals and prices that undercuts, the ice cream truck.

I found out today his net income is about $50 a week. A week!

HE’S NOT EVEN IN HIGH SCHOOL YET!

He has a log that he keeps track of his inventory in. He knows what’s going out and how much is coming in. Today, after stocking up on chips, he sent a mass text to all his customers informing them of tomorrow’s “sales”.

Seriously? Who’s kid is this?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of him. But it does make me feel uncomfortable.

Being a single mom for so many years and then marrying and having to provide for even more kids, we never have had enough cash flow to trickle down in the form of allowances until just recently.

All of my kids, at one time or another, has wanted to start something to earn money. I’ve just never let them, in fear of them ripping off our community.

A few months before Christmas, I had another one of my kids snatch the opportunity during a Pampered Chef party, to go out and advertise his services for cleaning up pet waste and pulling weeds, before I knew what he was doing or could stop him.

The little booger was raking in $10 for two days of after school work, every two weeks.

This one’s not even in Jr High.

I kinda feel bad for my oldest. He never learned he could hustle too, just as long as mom never found out.

At seven, I caught him tying his Halloween candy to strings and selling them as candy necklaces for $1 outside our townhouse. Also caught him selling his Tec Deck skateboards for $6 a pop at school.

The issue I’m having now, isn’t that I’m afraid of them ripping someone off, but the power they think they have because they have money.

I’m having problems, particularly with my 14 year old retail entrepreneur and his 15 year old roommate, who think they are single college bachelor’s and can’t understand why they can’t have an ice chest in their bedroom to store cold soda, even though they KNOW they are not allowed to have any food or drinks in the bedrooms.

These two, who which are part of the reason we have a second fridge and freezer in a garage, that can’t be opened, unless by key that is hidden in my husband and my bedroom; thinks it’s unfair and doesn’t understand why they can’t keep their food in their room so others can’t get into it.

I say, then don’t buy it, if you think there’s going to be a problem. Sucks not being able to trust those you live with, don’t it.

After listening to them argue with, and complain about, and try to “reason” with me All. Day. Long, I tell them tonight we will talk to Mike.

After giving my husband the grueling details of my day, I call my two swindlers into our room to let them plead their case for an ice chest.

The one makes his request. My husband looks them straight in the eye, says “No.” And my son says, “OK.” and gets up to leave.

WHAT?!?

Wait. What?

All day long they gave me nothing but grief. I stood my ground. They almost had me swayed, but I didn’t. And these kids are mastermind manipulators!

“I’m over it”, he says. Well, I’m not! Oooh… I’m….going out for a walk!

Dear God in Heaven, this is a whole different game we’re playing now. These kids are getting smarter and more devious than me. It will be only by your grace that I won’t be out witted. So I continue to ask you for your help, your strength and your will to parent these delinquents.

May Mike and I always be a united force, no matter how frustrating I find it at times. May we continue to think as one. May we serve you well, as we raise your sons and daughter.

We’ve Done It!

It only took four years, ten months and twenty-two days to completely blend our family.

Because four years, ten months and twenty-two day ‘s ago, Mike and I got married and moved his small family in with mine.

We were together in one house, but still completely separated. Tunes and Butterfly had their own rooms, and Justice and Fun, and Gamer and Smart had theirs.

And in the beginning, I think it was appropriate. It was rough enough for my boys to share the same air with these intruders. And Mike’s boys had moved once again. They moved often, but were always together.

So everyone having their own space was very much needed.

It has not been an easy feat.

There has been a lot of arguing about being in someone else’s room, about taking something that wasn’t yours, making a mess, not knocking before entering or being invited. Oh I could go on and on.

But a time has finally came were it was more important for the older boys to break free from their little brothers and have a more teen atmosphere, and the little brothers to get away from the constant hounding to be quiet and knock it off, from their older brothers.

Gamer and Justice slept in their new rooms for the first time last night, as well as Fun and Smart. In fact, upon waking this morning, I learned Fun and Smart had even taken the liberty of rearranging their set up and made it their own.

I’m so stinkin’ proud of how much these kids have grown and matured and well, blended.

Aww…there is peace…

Savoring it….

The teens are still sleeping. Probably will for the next couple of hours.

Currently listening to Fun and Smart converse over the importance of making their beds every morning and keeping the floor clean.

Yeah, I know they will be arguing in a few hours and at the end of the day I won’t be able to see their floor and tomorrow we’ll be walking out the door with unmade beds.

But for this moment there is peace.

And once that moment is over, we will still be blended. We will still be a family. And that makes me very happy.

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.

When What You Are Grateful For Disappoints You

I mentioned earlier we had a fire this month. It was on a Saturday. My husband was working. My daughter and I had just left for the library and all the boys were doing whatever boys do, at home.

I received a call from my oldest son that our house was on fire but that everyone was out of the house and the fire department was on their way.

By the time I got home, everything was out and they were just working on getting the smoke out. WHEW!

Boy, I was grateful! We could have lost our kids. We could have lost our pets. We could have lost our house. But we didn’t. I was grateful!

Then I hear stories of how verbally abusive the boys were to their little brother. How they they beat him up, emotionally. How insensitive they were. I was disappointed.

Today our church loaded us up with food, for us to bring to the men who showed up that day and put our fire out. You know, as a thanksgiving. I was grateful!

However, when it was time this morning to deliver the food, half the kids were sleeping, and half were not, but only one was willing to be bothered to come and help thank the firefighters for saving our normal. It was 11:30am. I was disappointed.

I’ve also written earlier about the boys’ lack of compassion and not being able to find it within them to help make some plarn (plastic yarn) for sleeping mats for the homeless, even though it was an event I had organized. I was disappointed.

I find myself disappointed a lot. It’s heartbreaking. It’s discouraging. Oh my gosh, IT MAKES ME SO MAD!

But I love them. I love them with everything that is within me. I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t want a life without them.

I wonder, I just wonder if this is how God looks at me? I know I don’t do what I could or I should. I know if I just listened to him the first time it would bring him less heartache. I know I can be disappointing.

But I know he still loves me. I know he still delights in me. I know he still adores me.

Maybe what I do can be disappointing, but who I am, is not.

Whether I am driven by fear or love, he still looks at me the same. Whether I sit and do nothing, when he wants me to stand up and be heard, he just patiently waits. Whether I selfishly spend all his blessings instead of giving them all away, he still provides.

You see, love is a great big huge thing that I know nothing about. There is not much reason to love me. And yet he still does.

So when I look at my sons’ and I start to feel disappointed, I need to remind myself that I too, can tap into a much bigger power than what I have.

I can tap into the same love I have for those boys that Jesus has for me. I can forget about the disappointment, since He forgets His disappointment in me.

This is God’s grace. God’s, unmerited favor. Although, undeserving of love, He still loves. I want to be more like that. Regardless of how my boys act, I still want to show them my unmerited favor, my love. His grace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lack of Compassion

Somebody asked how my son was doing yesterday.

I was at church, but instead of having service, we were all making plarn for the sleeping mats for the homeless.

She was referring to how he was doing since being accused by his brothers  of setting fire to our house.

The day before he had placed a wet stuff animal in our dryer, turned it on and after a few minutes noticed smoke. During the chaos that followed, he was scolded, shamed, berated, belittled and it was made clear it was his fault.

By the time I had arrived on site he was a walking puddle of guilt and remorse. He sobbed with apologies. He had confessed what he had done and he was so, so sorry.

I held my baby and tried to comfort him and tell him it wasn’t his fault, but in the background, insults from his older brothers flew. He was sure that this was his fault.

Oh my gosh, what a mix match of emotions I had that day. I was so proud that everyone made it out safely and worked together, but here I stand after being so proud, hearing how horrible my other sons were treating their little brother. I was way beyond disappointed.

I was disgusted.

I told my friend he was doing better…as long as no one brings it up. It was noted as to how little compassion was shown that day.

Yep. That’s pretty typical of my boys, some of my boys, but especially two of my boys.

I don’t know why. I mean, I try to teach them about compassion, about empathy, about being kind, being generous, looking out for each other. I don’t know what went wrong. I don’t know if it’s the illness they struggle with or outside influences. I do share them, but I don’t know.

I mean, even as I was discussing them, I was at church making mats for the homeless, and even though I had every kid that weekend, only my daughter was there with me.

In the past I have tried to force them to be compassionate. I’ve forced them to serve, to help out, to think of others and all it has done is make me turn into a person I don’t like to be and make others feel uncomfortable. So I don’t do it anymore.

Maybe I’m wrong for doing it, or not doing it, but I keep thinking about what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” I’m sure he wasn’t just talking about money.

I’ve stopped making the older kids go to church. Stopped demanding that they serve with me. Stopped insisting they be someone they’re not.

It makes me really sad though. It breaks my heart. My prayer is one day it will click. One day they will lift their head above water just long enough to see there are others out there, dog paddling and struggling with keeping their head above water too.