Category Archives: Blended Family

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?

 

Looking Backward at 2012– Moving Forward to 2013

I can’t believe 2012 is coming to an end. It sounds cliche, but the time flew! When I look back at my last blog post for the end of 2011 I realize how anxious I was to bring on a new year. 2011 had its own challenges so I was happily looking forward to starting anew. That’s the thing about blogging, it keeps me accountable to my own life, and my own words. In reviewing 2012, I can honestly say it was better than 2011, it many ways, but it was not as good as I hoped it would be.

There have still been the regular stresses of living with teens, which seem to be amplified when you factor in the multiple households that come with our blended family situation. The living arrangement that I hoped to return to hasn’t materialized–Erica still lives most days with her mom and Olivia is full-time with us. I miss having the consistent routine of shared custody, (that’s an oxymoron). The transitions we experience when Erica returns for all too brief periods, are difficult, especially for Diego, who misses his sister’s regular presence.  But, Olivia seems to have benefited greatly from living with us full-time. She finished the important junior year in high school with exceptional grades, and seems content. At least, as content as any 17 year-old anxious to leave the nest and escape her parents’ clutches. The fact that Olivia is now a licensed driver helps to ease her restlessness and gives her some independence, at least temporarily until she sets off to college in the Fall.  She’s already been accepted to two of her top colleges and is waiting to hear from a third. 2013 should be a good year for her.

Olivia earned praise for her hard work this year.

2012 marked a huge transition for Nico and Erica. They graduated from junior high and have started high school. Both are finding their way through the academic challenges of Freshman English and Algebra I and they are loving the social life and “big pond” experience they have gained moving onto high school.  Having spent 9 years at the elementary school and junior high with essentially the same kids, they are both enjoying maintaining friendships with some of their former classmates who are attending the same high school, and they are thrilled to be making new friendships too. As for me, I love seeing them expand their universe with new friends, and new experiences. I know 2013 will be an enriching year for them too.

Erica and Nico at one of the last events of Junior High.

For Diego, 2013 will probably be more of the same,  I hope. After all, he is only 8 years old, and I don’t expect a new calendar to rock his world too much. He’s (finally) in the second grade, and happy to be there. His Spanish is improved, and he is a strong reader.  He consistently drops in a Spanish word or phrase when he talks to me or Juan, and he is proud of his expanding vocabulary. I am convinced that sending him to the Spanish immersion program in our public school district was a good idea. Sure there have been things he’s missed out on not attending the Catholic school that his older siblings attended, but he is gaining a language. How can you beat that? We manage to help him fill in the gaps with his participation in our church childrens’ choir, soccer and little league baseball. He’s looking forward to moving up a division in soccer this year. So, for Diego 2013 should be just fine.

Diego enjoyed his first season of baseball in 2012.

As for Juan, I think 2012 was a very satisfying year, professionally.  He was rightfully recognized by my alma mater,  Loyola Law School and the Criminal Courts Bar Association for all the hard work he did on a case involving a wrongfully convicted defendant. He was in his element this political season, since he loves politics. He followed all the pundits and devoured all kinds of blogs, and news shows during the elections.  His two worlds collided this year, when our boss, the District Attorney for Los Angeles, did not seek another term, and we had to elect a new top prosecutor. Ultimately, we are very happy with our new DA, and look forward to the changes in our workplace that a new administration will bring. I think 2013 will be a very good year for Juan too.

Juan earned the Ignatian Award, in service towards others.

When I started writing this post I wasn’t sure how it would go. I realize I didn’t have any time this year to write my regular Christmas newsletter, like I have done in our 2006 Family Newsletter, and in 20072008, 2009, and in 2011, so I wanted to write a kind of retrospective on the year, but there is just too much to say. That’s another perk to blogging, I can post another day. For now, for me, 2012 had some high points, and some very definite low points. It wasn’t the year I hoped it would be, but it wasn’t a year to frown upon either. I think 2012 was probably a transitional year–one which I hope will lead me to an even better year in 2013. Happy New Year. 2013. Bring it!

How was your 2012? Are you looking forward to a New Year?

 

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