My First and Last Blog Post of 2015

Has it really been over one year since my last blog post? 13 months and 11 days to be exact. Looking back on these many months it’s not surprising. When I first started this blog I intended to use it as a creative space to write about my life as a mother raising four kids in a family of “Yours, Mine and Ours.” I wanted to explore such themes as blended families, parenting, divorce and remarriage, and delve deeper into my own family history, particularly my Mexican heritage. Over the last six years on this blog, I wrote about all of these things, and even had some of my posts published here and here.

As my children matured and reached adolescence, I wanted to shift the focus of my blog. I felt that some of the stories I wanted to write about were the kids’ stories to tell. This became even more complicated as one of our family members was faced with a mental health crisis which impacted our entire world. I felt I could no longer write about those funny or light hearted anecdotes when my heart felt dark and heavy. My writing did not seem authentic. I was presenting my family to the world in a Brady Bunch fashion, when most of the time it looked more like Modern Family without the laugh track.

Three years ago, as my blog started to gain some attention in the social media universe, I was contacted by Parade Magazine because they planned to do a story of the “New American Family.” The magazine was featuring the changing compositions of the American family and was going to include our blended family in the article and use our photo on the cover. I was excited about the project, and the prospect of the article generating more exposure to my blog. The kids were less excited but agreed to go along until the last minute, when our family member, displaying the emotional deregulation that would foreshadow a yet undiagnosed mental illness, refused to cooperate. Reluctantly, I called the magazine writer and told her that my family was no longer available to be the face of the new American family. I was angry and disappointed but looking at it now, I can see how difficult it would have been to depict our family in such a positive light, when the reality was so different. Mental illness began to wreck havoc on all our lives. I started to blog less and less, feeling like I could no longer write about my well blended life, when my life felt more like it was upside down and falling apart.

So, why post to my blog now, the last day of 2015? Juan jokingly said it’s because I need to justify the money I spent paying for my website server over the last year. I am posting now because it is the last day of 2015 and I want to mark it. An entire year has past without me memorializing a single event in my life or our family life. A lot has happened—both good and bad. I want to mark today as the end of my silent blog and the beginning of my authentic blog. I intend to be respectful of my kids’ stories and I also want to be honest about my story. I hope to find a way to balance both. I want to write truthfully about the experiences of my entire life—the happy, sad, funny, dark, and ordinary parts of it. Maybe that really is a life well blended.

Family Movie Night

Recently, it was a big day in Diego’s life and in the life of our family. It was definitely blog worthy. Ten years ago, Diego entered our family and changed all our lives.  He had been talking about his big TEN birthday all year long. I guess he wanted to be sure that I would not forget that it was a special birthday for him. He really didn’t need to be concerned–his birthday also reminded me just how special his is to our family

I’ve written about Diego before and his special role in our blended family. Lately, the blending in our family is really a huge mess. It’s a lot more grinding, mashing and straining than blending. Last year Olivia left for college while things were tense at home. Erica has been spending most of the time at her mom’s while we try to stay connected and involved in her life. Nico is exercising his independence more and more. Juan and I are challenged to stay united and strong during these turbulent times.

On the eve of his 10th birthday, I asked Diego to tell me about some of his favorite things.  He recited a long laundry list of his “favorites.” Perhaps, in an effort to make up for the absence of record-keeping in his baby book. I promptly memorialized his list here:

Diego's Top Ten at Ten

Diego’s Top Ten at Ten

One of his “favorites” which surprised me a bit was when he said his favorite thing to do is, “Spend time with my family.”  I was surprised because for the last couple of years our family life has been so stressful that sometimes the least favorite thing for me to do is “spend time with my family.” There, I said it.  I sometimes feel that with all the chaos in our family, I am tempted run away and change my identity. But, this was about Diego, not me.  Diego loves it when we are all together, when his sisters are home and they can get along, when his brother stops talking on the computer or doing homework long enough to play video games with him, and when we can all sit down together for a family movie night.

On the eve of Diego’s 10th birthday,  Juan and I sat down and watched Diego’s birth video. One of my favorite parts of the video is when I am in my  hospital room and Juan brings the older kids into the room to meet Diego for the first time. Nine year-old Olivia bursts into tears, six-year old Erica is looking bewildered and excited and five year-old Nico is just taking it all in with a sweet smile. There’s a lot of excitement and chatter, and I explain to the kids that their new baby brother might recognize their voices. Olivia asks, “Did he think he was an only child?” I couldn’t help but burst out laughing! I laughed at the thought of how much Diego would have hated being an only child. In spite of the constant challenges we face in our blended family, Diego still experiences enough happiness that being with his family is one of his favorite things.

The next day with Olivia home from college, and Erica and Nico home from the other parents’, we all went to dinner to celebrate Diego’s birthday.  Afterwards, we went home to eat cake, and have a “family movie night” with Diego’s birth video.   The kids started laughing  at the sound and sight of younger versions of themselves, and of course we all burst out laughing hearing Olivia’s question and watching Erica put her unwashed hands all Diego’s face even when Juan told her to use the hand sanitizer! I looked over at Olivia and noticed that was tearing up and wiping her eyes as she watched her younger self weeping at the sight of her new brother.  Diego was beaming with pride and joy.  I looked at all of us, and felt joy at the sight and sound of us together and happy.  In that moment, I was reminded how this could be one of my favorite things too.

Meeting their brother in 2004.

...And Now

Celebrating with their brother in 2014.

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

Today is a special edition of Throwback Thursday. In celebration of Thanksgiving, I’m throwing it back to November 2007 and our blended family Thanksgiving.

In our blended family arrangement we often have to share holidays with the other parents. In 2007 Nico was going to spend the holiday out of town with his dad while the girls went with their mom. Before they left for the weekend I roasted a turkey breast and made some of our favorite thanksgiving sides. The other parents arrived and we invited them to stay for our impromptu feast. It was spontaneous and fun and we created a nice memory in the life of our family.

This year all our kids are home for the holiday. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and creating more memories. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday is inspired by yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

Erica 4, Nico, 3 and Oliva 6, exhausted after a weekend of roughing it.

I am sorry the picture is so grainy but I couldn’t find the original and I had to use a copy of the photo. Besides, the photo was taken in early Spring 2002, long before I had a digital camera.  Juan and I were dating and things were getting serious. We were spending more and more time together and on those weekends that we had custody of the kids, we would take them to the zoo, the park, or other outings.  In this photo we were driving home from our very first camping trip with the kids. I use the term “camping” very loosely.  Juan never really camped before, while I grew up camping with my family, and had great memories of spending time outdoors.  I wanted our kids to experience the fun and adventure of the great outdoors, so I convinced Juan that we should take the kids camping one weekend.  As an introduction to “roughing it” I chose a campground about 2 hours north of us, in Solvang.

When we arrived I discovered that the “campground” was really an open meadow located a few blocks out of town.  The campground was accessible to restaurants and grocery stores.  It wasn’t quite the getaway I envisioned, but the campground had flush toilets, and showers, and with three young kids, I figured it would be a pretty safe introduction to camping.  The campground accommodated tent campers like us, and RV’s like everyone else there that weekend.

Instead of the wild call of nature, we heard the hum of generators.  Instead of campfires and marshmallows, our neighbors listened to their radios and watched their portable TV’s.  Even though it was not the camping experience I wanted for our kids, they thought it was a great adventure.  They ran around the meadow, dodging RV’s and trailers, while Juan and I struggled to pitch our tent.  After a take out pizza dinner we roasted marshmallows.  We tried to sleep but the noise of all the other campers did not make for a very restful night.  The next day we packed it all up drove to a nearby beach.  Between the sleepless night and a day at the beach, the kids were wiped out.  They slept all the way home and I took this picture.

Do you have any camping memories?

 

Throwback Thursday

There’s a trend among social media users to post past photos  on Thursdays and tag it as Throwback Thursday, TBT or #TBT. I enjoy seeing some of my friends’ past pictures of them sporting big hair, bright makeup and leg warmers, and I am slightly amused by my own teens’ sense of nostalgia when they post photos from last school year and tag it as a throwback. When I think of TBT I am reminded of pictures of my kids when they were young and cute, or photos of me when I was younger and looked it.  Something like this:

Our first family photo, June 2001.

Our first family photo, June 2001.

This photo is in my office. Juan framed it for me and gave it to me as an anniversary gift.  The picture was taken in June, 2001. Olivia was 5, Erica was just 3,  Nico was still 2 1/2. Diego was just a glimmer in our eye. Actually, no. He wasn’t even a thought.  It was actually the first time Juan and I went out as a couple with our kids.  We had already known each other for several months and as single parents with kids of similar ages, we spent time together with our kids, taking them on outings.  But this date was different.

One week earlier, our friendship turned romantic.  All of a sudden I saw Juan in a different light and I realized I wanted us to be more than friends. He was more than willing. We spent nearly every day we could together until the weekend this photo was taken when our kids came back to us from their other parents.  That weekend in June we were invited to the birthday party of a co-worker’s daughter. The party was in the San Fernando Valley, on a sweltering day.  But, it was a perfect excuse to spend another day together with our kids, and a perfect opportunity to come out to our colleagues about our budding romance. Our friends were happy for us. I think our children were oblivious. They were getting their fill of birthday cake and ice cream. When the party ended, we did not want our day together to end.

Juan and I decided we wanted to do something else with the kids.  We wanted to escape the oppressive heat of the San Fernando Valley and decided to head south.  We drove to Anaheim to see if we could buy cheap tickets to a Los Angeles Angeles game.  After over an hour drive we were turned away because the game was sold out. Our kids were deteriorating. They were tired, hungry, sweaty and cranky. So was I.

But,  Juan sprang into action and suggested we head to Downtown Disney. The idea of anything Disney brought the kids to life. By the time we got to Downtown Disney it was dark and the temperature dropped.  Of course, no one had jackets, but we managed to scrounge through our cars and find some mismatched clothing. In this picture I am wearing Juan’s rain jacket Nico is wearing a too-small sweatshirt, and Olivia is wearing a pink velour long-sleeved shirt over yellow shorts. Erica and Juan are cold.  But we look happy. Because we were.

I remember laughing and having a good time watching the kids play in front of this fountain.  Juan began taking pictures of the kids. At that moment I remember feeling the possibility of something magical happening between us, and something special happening between the kids.  We must have projected those feelings because all of a sudden a stranger approached Juan and asked if we wanted him to take a picture of our family.  Juan looked at me as if to say, “What do you think?” I smiled at Juan, and without letting the stranger know that we weren’t really a family, (yet) we  both said “yes!”

That’s what I call Throwback Thursday.

 Do you like to post photos for Throwback Thursday?