Choose your happiness.

One of the things that I have noticed with most stepparents I talk to, is that their problems aren’t usually with the stepchild, per se.  Their problem is the way their significant other treats his/her biological child.  Often, they talk to them like they are infants.  In a non-blended family, I’m sure this also occurs, but isn’t as irritating, because hey, that’s your baby too!  When this infantilization is connected to a child that you are already trying to fit into your new lifestyle and adjust to, it can be annoying, frustrating, and for many new spouses, almost a deal breaker.  If you don’t recognize it, you can subconsciously internalize an animosity for the child that is truly not their fault.  There are a few ways to help with this:

1.  Take a deep breath and realize it’s a super small issue in the grand scheme of life.  

You are with the person you loved and wanted to spend your life with.  You went into this relationship willingly and presumably you knew the strings attached.  We all have strings attached.  So this blended family is a tremendous exercise in compromise.  It will be a struggle, but there are places for you to vent.  Like here!

2.  Spend time with the stepchild.

Spending time together will build a relationship that is lacking in the first place.  You are given an instant family without the parent bonding time you get to develop with your own child over the course of their lives.  Doing little things for the child will also connect you and make you start to feel differently about your relationship.  Make cupcakes for them for school.  Make their favorite food.  Wash their blanket in fabric softener all fresh and clean and have it all set up for them when they are ready for bed-whatever will make that child/teen happy.  Discover what they like and indulge them a bit.  For example, my stepson loves Angry Birds.  I made special Angry Bird magnets for Valentine’s Day to put in his special treat bags for his class.  I felt good about it, he was excited and it was a fun memory to share.  It’s not always easy…but it helps.  It’s part of what I call “creating the mindset you desire”.  I wish to be a sweet, loving stepmom…so I act accordingly.  The hardest part is that with your own child, you often can say what you feel.  You can punish them or redirect them.  With a stepchild, that is a very touchy issue.  In our home, I leave that to my husband.  I tell him if I think something needs to be addressed and he deals with it later in a way that we both see fit. A stepparent has a difficult enough role.  It’s best if they just get to be more of a confidante, friend, mentor, role model-rather than a disciplinarian.

3. Every single day, spend some time alone with your spouse.  

Even if it’s only twenty minutes watching a show before bed, make a routine that is yours.  As your kids get older, you can tell them that they need to be in their rooms by that time (for us it is 9 pm) and settled down.  They can be reading, watching TV, drawing or whatever, but they will also grow to respect that it is time for you two.  Your relationship being solid is good for everyone in the family.  No one wants turmoil, anger and tension.  A nice routine is to have a little glass of wine or cup of tea each night before bed and chat theneveryone goes to bed happy.  We always stop what we are doing and head to our great room with a small glass of wine and watch an episode of one of our favorite shows before heading up to bed.  It’s one of our favorite times of day.

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Photo from http://www.stepfamilyrochester.org/cartoons.html

Talkin’ bout a revolution.

So as a single mama, I had tremendous independence.  It was probably the reason that my relationship with my now-husband, did not work out in the first place.  He is a nurturer, by nature.  He is most comfortable taking care of everyone.  And I, my friends, was completely and adamantly opposed to being taken care of.  Certainly, that was partially a result of the end of my first marriage and the subsequent inability to trust relationships, but I’m definitely very self-sufficient by birth.  A bit defiant and horribly stubborn as well.  Dangerous mix.  

When I (and my lovely daughter, because she was involved in the decision), decided to marry and move in with my husband and his son, I knew that I had to relax and live in the present, as my Buddhist studies have taught me.  I knew I was going to have to let go of old baggage and roll with the new and changing familial structure.  One that was unfamiliar for sure and a bit uncomfortable even, at first, but one that I went into totally willingly.  Both for the sake of love and for the wonderful family life it would provide for my daughter.  (Back to my oldest posts, she and I have a very close relationship and without a doubt, every major decision I have made since her birth, has been with her first and foremost in my mind).  So we moved in, got married and everyone began learning how to live together (more on that in future posts).

My real surrender in independence became when I gave up the research job I had for about 12 years, to take a teaching job closer to our home.  It allowed me more family time and I could get my daughter from school every day and bring her back to my classroom.  Wonderful!  I did that job for a year and then, missing my old workplace with the two hour daily commute-I headed back there.  But that year was with a much less-paying job and I had to learn to let my husband take over some financial responsibilities.  It was trying, but I went forth with it and we were all fine.  Really.  Fine.  

Back at the research job for two years, the lab underwent major restructuring and was going to be moving across the country.  Left with little alternative (we own a successful business, so we weren’t going to move), I took a part-time teaching job at a local college and worked as an independent consultant for some local businesses, doing computer/web design work.  I also decided to take a couple classes and start work on a different Masters degree-in the Natural Sciences/Chemistry.  So it’s been busy for sure!  But definitely much different than having a 40 hour a week job with a 2 hour daily commute.  After nearly 8 months, I’m still hesitant to say I LOVE this new schedule.  And giving up my financial freedom has been interesting to say the least.  Although I still have several sources of income, it’s much different than having the paycheck every two weeks, of the same amount, deposited into my account.  I’m also uncertain if this is where I’m really supposed to be.  Career-wise.  However, my daughter turns 13 this summer-and I’m definitely noticing that she needs me nearby in different ways…and probably more than she did as a toddler.  I also feel the need to do a million things on the day I am home, just so when anyone asks what I did, there is a whopping big list.  Self-inflicted, sure.  Anyone else have this?  But as far as being able to deal with my husband bearing more of our financial end of things, that has proven to work out fine.  I take care of lots of things that are difficult for him to handle.  I take the kids to appointments, make arrangements for our store when he doesn’t have time and I handle all of the stuff that goes along with home-ownership (including cooking/cleaning).  

End result:  The kids love me being around more.  Fresh baked everything, all homemade, healthy meals.  I was semi like that before, but there were nights each week that were rushed and had more “quickie meals”.  My husband loves it this way, it is a great compromise that gets everyone’s work done.  We make a very effective team.  My vote is still undecided.  I feel more pressure this way, to get everything done because everyone thinks you have so much free time.  When in reality, there isn’t much free time at all.  I often joke about starting a revolution where women accept that taking care of their kids and their home and doing a great job at these tasks, is the most important job and needs to be respected as such.  I feel total empathy for stay at home moms who don’t get the credit they so deserve.   How about it?  A revolution?Image

Scrumptious coconut Easter cake!

Branching out the blog.

So it’s been awhile, right?  But I’ve been pondering what to do with this blog.  Although I still strongly identify with the single mamas, I have been successfully part of a blended family for about five years now.  I am a full-time stepmother of my stepson, as my husband has full physical custody and of course have full-custody of my girl.  Over the past five years, I have listened to others tell me how I need to write a book about blended families.  They have come to me with their problems and challenges and asked for advice.  Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy for me, but I think we’ve got a good handle on this whole dynamic and it’s taken a lot of research and compromising.  :)  

So, are any of you interested in a blended family blog with tips, hints, stories and guest bloggers? Please comment and give me some of your super helpful feedback!  

Freelance and friendships…

…are two things I miss about my writing life.  So, I’m back to blogging and I now have free time and mobile apps that will make this process happen on a more weekly basis.  How are all of you?  I miss your comments, your insights and your blogs.  So I’m off to review them and catch up.

Update, as for my freelancing, I’m now writing on Examiner.com…check my articles about parenting out here.

Hope to hear from all of you soon.

Minimalist running.

You knew I’d get to this post right?  It’s all the craze in the running world right now and being both a scientist and a runner, I had to come to this point eventually.

Before all the hype started, I read a paper, published by a reputable group of scientists on the biomechanics of running barefoot.  I also read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, before it became so inspirational and hence encouraging of all these barefoot runners.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a fantastic book, a brilliant story and there is definitely something to the idea that less cushioning will allow our feet to actually feel the ground and do what they were made to do.  I’m always a proponent of the more “natural” way of doing things.  However, barefoot running is not something one should just start on a whim.  I occasionally run with a very flat trail/water shoe, when out on the lake for the weekend …on soft trails and it feels great!  I don’t feel that on the sidewalks of my city for my distance runs that it would be a great plan.  I need some cushioning.  Correct shoe fit and the proper shoe choice for your usage are the sole solution here.

Never just assume that because something is published, that it is right.  For many years, people believed the Earth was flat.  For many years, we all believed that we needed extra cushioning and “sox” and all sorts of gels and bubbles and so forth, to help soften our pounding on the pavement.  Now a book and a few radicals push this idea and we’re all on the wagon?  Careful kids, everything in moderation.  Every day in science, things that we previously thought were irrefutable, are proven wrong.  The Nature paper,  ‘Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners” (Lieberman et. al, 2010)  makes a wonderful scientific study of the benefits of barefoot running which goes along nicely with Born To Run.

I like the concept of rebelling against shoe companies who play off our fear of injury by developing shoes that hurt us more than help us, however…and this is a big BUT…isn’t it awfully ironic that in rebelling against shoe companies we are pushing people to buy Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Frees?  In reality, couldn’t this be yet another marketing ploy?

The bottom line is that no matter who you are, you are an individual with individual needs.  Only you can know what your particular foot, joints, legs and/or body will function best with.  Always use your own discretion and choose what works for you-don’t waste needless piles of money on the latest gimmick.  And in my opinion, running with a minimalist shoe, rather than completely Barefoot or with the lovely gimmick of Vibrams, can be much safer for most and much more affordable.  There have been countless articles published about how the best running shoes, can be the least expensive, due to the lower level of cushioning and bells and whistles.  So if you want to try this trend…look in your closet, you may already have some cheaper, minimalist shoes in there.

Either way, keep on running!

Ouch!

Well here we go.  My first injury in ages.  I mean ages.  I’m almost ashamed to mention it beause I’ve been so injury-free through my last couple half marathons and racing seasons…I just don’t know, why now?

Last night I iced them (did the whole RICE) thing, but I can still feel them throbbing and can barely walk.  This happened once last summer too, but you all know how hard it is to take time off from running when you are in training!  Ugh.  Any input?  I know I shouldn’t have trudged through my 35 minute tempo run last night but I can be a fiesty little brat sometimes.  I also think I dropped a nasty word when I had to stop for a sec and make sure I could still stand when I stopped moving.  For some reason the faster I ran, the pain seemed to lessen (maybe just numb).  A little old man in his flower bed, doing some gardening sure got a suprise.  I better take a different route for awhile.

On vacation this week with my precious daughter.  We day tripped to Montreal and got some school shopping done, practiced diving, got her hair cut and spent loads of quality time together, biking and chatting and re-organizing her closet (her choice, she loves that stuff).  And she got a new Shrek Opi nailpolish.  Another variant of blue!  I love staycations.  Today is our loungy, rest day.  Stepson is at his mom’s for two weeks and then he’ll be back with us.   Our kids start school a couple days after Labor Day so it’s not all that far off now.  Are you done your school shopping?  My daughter isn’t so about it this year.  She got a few things, but she wanted enough to start out and then buy more throughout the fall.  Much different than kindergarten when she started with over 35 outfits.  Oh those little Gymboree outfits with matching shoes and hair accessories.  Those were the days.  Cardigan, tights, skirt, sweater and headband…all matchy-matchy.

It’s getting hot in here…

Really, really, really hot in here.  Here in upstate NY, we consider 80 degrees Fahrenheit to be sweltering hot, since we often get below zero temperatures for a large amount of our winter.  I run all winter long, outside.  It has to be very frigid to keep me indoors on my treadmill.  Sometimes in the winter, if I’m in training, I will do my speedwork or interval training on the treadmill, primarily because the track is stacked high with snow!  This week it’s been 90 degrees at 7 pm when I go running.  I still did my normally scheduled runs.  I’m nothing if not determined.  Once I’m in training, I just about never deviate from my schedule.  It really helps to choose a training plan and adhere to it.  Somehow it helps as a motivator.  An additional motivator is all those nasty toxins I’m sweating out of my body on a run like that.

This all relates to stepparenting and single parenting for me in one very simple way.  When you feel good about your body, you feel good about yourself and you are able to release all that stress that those two dynamics can build up.  It’s the one good thing that is for ME and me alone, that schedules right into my life.  It’s taken a long time, but everyone expects my running now.  No one feels it takes time away from them, the whole family is proud and my daughter loves coming to the track to time my speed workouts.  Before I remarried, I used to run on a treadmill almost all the time.  I didn’t race as much back then, but I got my running in.  It’s my sanity.  And probably part of the reason I’m very laid back and less stressed than most of my friends.  And when my daughter’s father manages to somehow get on my nerves (it happens occasionally, even now) running to some loud angry music really makes it all go away.  Really.

Anybody interested in running?  I’d love to help and give advice-I want to motivate all of you.  :)  And for my runner friends, especially those fast ones, help motivate me to bust out a great half-marathon in October!

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