When I started this blog, I had one objective: to be part of the force for good in step parenting cyberland. I was looking for positive role models and mostly found stepmom blogs that were full of rants about the ex, the vile children, and even the husband.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us in blended families have already been through plenty of drama, and have enough of it playing in the background most days that we don’t really need another dramatic playground to parade around on.
During my time in the blogosphere I have run across some really great and honest stepmoms, stepmom forums, and stepparent blogs. I had the thought that I wanted to do periodic guest posts from stepmoms I admire. I asked my friend Kaci if she wanted to write a piece because she is most definitely a stepmom I admire. She obliged me and sent it off in about a day and a half. This was before I took my super-long social media sabbatical. I believe two of the children she’s writing about here are married now and one is running for senator. . .
What I like about Kaci and her husband is that as much as possible, they use their custodial situation as a chance to be intentional in their relationships with their children. It takes a lot of work to get to the intentional place, as opposed to the putting out fires and damage control space (speaking from experience here). And then you end up with a story you can blog about.
Every odd numbered year we spend Christmas with the kids. Three of them anyway, there’s a new youngest son, but my husband and I made him from scratch so we don’t have to trade off years with that one. Plus, technically he might be Jewish anyway.
At any rate, every odd numbered year we spend Christmas with three of the kids. Oldest Son, Middle Child, and Former Youngest come to our house for TEN WHOLE DAYS IN A ROW over winter break from school, and odd years this also coincides with the Christmas thing.
Anyway, two Christmases ago it was an even year (aren’t my maths skills astounding?) and this means the kids were with the other side of their family on the actual holiday, which got Husband and I thinking.
Husband: “So…what should we get the kids this year?”
Me: “Well, we could spend the money on a lot of crap they’ll break or forget about, or we could just spend that money on tickets to see The Mouse in California. It’s not like they’ll be lacking in presents and Christmasyness from the other side of their lives…”
Husband: “My goodness, lovely and brilliant wife, that is a wonderful idea! I must sing your praises!” (I may have paraphrased this conversation in a way to help improve my awesomeness. Possibly.)
At any rate, we agree this is a wonderful idea and we call Uncle who is King of All Things Mouse (UKATM) and run the idea by him & Ant.
Folks, telling UKATM was just exactly like those commercials you see on TV where parents tell the kids they’re going to see The Mouse. He squealed! He jumped! He hugged! It was as much of a gift to him as it was to the kids…and the kids didn’t even know we were going yet. Of course he and Ant would join us. Of course we would get adjoining hotel rooms at his favorite place to stay within walking distance of The Mouse. Of course they would keep it a secret and play along. Of course it would be all-caps AWESOME. Right before the trip Uncle G was going to join as well! Five adults to three kids is a most excellent ratio for seeing The Mouse on Dec. 30. Plus, even numbers! Everybody gets a buddy! This will be done! Eep, Eep, Eep! The Jumping! The excitement! The question, “Um, UKATM, you can keep this a secret from the kids, right?”
We pick up the kids on the 26th, as per the usual, and have a little family celebration with food and some gifts from the grandparents and the kids don’t even notice they didn’t get a single thing from us.
We get up on the 29th and we ask the kids what they want to do that day. “Eh, I dunno” is the general response so Husband and I suggest we go to California to eat some pizza. We had a trip to California a few months earlier for some beach time and they’ve been itching to get back. Former Youngest is on board, ’cause he’s cool like that. Middle Child wants to know what kind of pizza. Oldest is…skeptical, but he’s skeptical about everything. Then he realizes we’re not joking and he’s completely ready to pack up and go.
UKATM, The Spouse, and Uncle G are already en route and arrive at the hotel long before us, get both rooms checked in, and enjoy themselves.
We borrow my dad’s van and start to make our way from AZ to CA and all is well until this happens…
But we have a spare!
And we’re near a town!
And we get new rubber on the old wheel!
And we’re off. We eat, we drive, the kids play car games and draw pictures and pass notes back and forth. The sun sets and they doze some and we’re starting to get close. The sleeping children will help make the surprise stay a surprise until the next morning when we get up and casually say, “Hey, guys, why don’t we take a walk and see what there is to do around here…”
Then this happens…on the exit ramp…from one freeway to another…mere miles from the destination…
Very glad we spent too much money on new rubber on the other wheel.
Very glad we didn’t get hit by traffic.
Very glad Husband is excellent at changing tires.
Very glad that everyone is still aslee…oh. Wait. Middle Child wakes up. We try to coax her back to sleep, telling her we’re getting close, start trying to distract her by talking about the kind of pizza she wants (pizza that is now being picked up by Uncle G and The Spouse)…forgetting that SHE CAN READ NOW.
But, gotta say, the look on her face was priceless when she realized just exactly what part of California we’re in. Plus, the boys are still asleep and she loves a good secret, even though this is one she can hardly contain.
We arrive at the hotel and I “get the key from the front desk” (UKATM) and he hurries back to the room after I tell him phase two of the secret was compromised after the second popped tire. Phase one is still on. Tired boys and Middle Child trying to play it cool get to carrying things to the hotel room, walking in, going to the adjoining room door (like they always do), opening the adjoining room door to ask the question, “what’s on the other side of that door?”…only this time, finding the other door open.
A gruff voice in the distance says, “Come on in, we’ve got pizza…”
I say, “Yeah, go ahead.”
They look at me, wide-eyed, and essentially say the kid version of, “What the hell, woman, are you trying to kill us?”
Then they realize it’s Ant! and Uncle G! and UKATM! And we go ahead and let the cat out of the bag and tell them where we are so that Middle Child doesn’t spontaneously erupt with excitement. UKATM got all of us awesome T-shirts to celebrate, and will indoctrinate the kids in the ways of pin trading.
Then, the next morning, even though they found out the night before we get this…
We all had such a fun time, and the kids loved that it was Uncle G’s first time there also. They were still totally surprised, and in the end it didn’t matter that it didn’t go off without a hitch. In fact, I think those popped tires might have made the trip even more memorable than it might have been.
Plus, on one of the busiest days of the year with the amazing help of UKATM (this guy would appear out of nowhere with magic passes to get us to the front of lines), we were able to ride fourteen rides with kids aged 8, 7 and 5 in nine hours. No one puked or whinged all day, just lots of thanks and smiles and funny stories. It was such a successful trip that this past Christmas, even though they were with us, they opted for another trip over presents. Wonder what we can get them to believe this year…think a plane trip for a movie is out of order?
If you see a stepmom you admire today, tell her she’s doing a good job.