I come from your average blue collar, working class family from the South Suburbs of Chicago. Once living so close to the city that I could take a 5-minute bike ride in, to now building a family and home in the far reaches of the burbs. I have worn a few hats in my day: retail, health and fitness, salon and spa, investments, and my most important career as stay-at-home mom. I have most recently become an independent Maskara Beauty artist. Feel free to browse my website and contact me with any questions. Thanks for stopping in!
A show of hands from those who use “screens” to entertain their offspring for a bit? Sure there are tons of parents out there that don’t use screens, and more power to ya! But I know I’m not alone here. I am absolutely guilty of using an iPad/phone as a way to keep Numero Tres “busy”. I recently read an article on Facebook about children being entitled little snots, for the lack of better words, because they aren’t learning social skills due to their heads being buried in video games and electronics. I agree with that, but to an extent. I am 100%, without a doubt, a know it all. Unless you or Google can physically prove me wrong, I am right! I used to feel that way when it came to parenting, now I truly believe that if something works for a family, then let them do their thing. I mean, there are obvious boundaries there but in general, if you are an active, coherent parent, you probably know what you’re doing and what works for you. As their mom and dad, we know our kids best. Nobody else knows them the way we do. We also know what is right for them. Parent shaming now days is just as serious as bullying in schools. Both being completely unnecessary.
If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ve figured out that independence is HUGE in my life. Not just for myself personally, but for my kids. Outsiders probably look at Nick and I as parents, and think we’re being too hard on our kids because they do a lot themselves. Or because they don’t get that piece of candy before evaluating their behavior throughout the day, and they go to sleep when it’s still daylight. I don’t claim to be a perfect parent, or even a perfect human being in that case. There are days during the summer that we hit the beach, then a park, head out for a walk around the hood, then wrap it up in the evening at Dairy Queen. But then there are days that we sit home practically staring at each other in boredom. I swear I am my own worst enemy. Those are the days that I get into my own head. Making myself believe that I suck in the parent industry because we’re not out exploring the world. Days later, I laugh at myself when I realize that I am the one preparing them for adulthood. Adulthood isn’t always rainbows, butterflies, and field trips. There were many days that I sat at my desk at the Investment firm just staring at my double monitors waiting for something to pop up. Down right bored, but I dealt with it. I expect the same from our kids because that’s life my friends. There won’t be a circus clown just waiting to entertain while they’re off at college in a lecture hall. As much as I would love to run the streets everyday with my minions, they also need to learn that how to self play, respectfully play with their peers, and most importantly, go on through life without me some day.
Numero Uno is almost 10 and in fourth grade, he’s been making his own lunch for school since second grade. He’ll try his best to sneak a stick of gum or an extra fruit roll up into his lunch bag but he’s been doing a great job overall. He’s had a handful of responsibilities around the house but I tell ya, once schools out for the summer, he loses all sense of responsibility and independence. I try not to allow summer break to become a free for all. I understand that they’ve just worked their tails off in school for the past 9 months and they deserve a break. Absolutely. But I’ve learned from past summer breaks that if I allow those 10 weeks to become a crap shoot, I’ll be working that much harder at the beginning of the next school year to get them back into learning mode, and into our regularly scheduled programming. All 3 of our amigo’s still have a bedtime during break, numero uno still makes his own lunch (when he doesn’t forget how to), but I’d be lying if I told you screen time limits stay the same. They don’t. I am more lax during break but still aware. Somedays I look back and am totally ashamed at how long I allowed it but then other days, the entire day goes by and they never looked at a screen. Balance! At least that’s what I’m going with. Ha! I know that as parents, we are all so hard on ourselves. I’ve said this before, we allow society to get into our heads. Whether it’s regarding the right and wrongs of parenting, the meals we feed our kids, or even things pertaining to ourselves like weight and appearance. Everyone’s out there trying to keep up with the Joneses but who the hell are the Joneses? Have you met them? I haven’t. They must be some wonderful beings because everyone’s tryin’ to be like em. They don’t exist people! We are who we are. I let my kids eat McDonald’s Happy Meals, they play in the yard without constant adult supervision, the IPad takes my place for a bit somedays. And? I’m human. We’re all here just trying to live our lives to the fullest without being judged by our peers. And as a realist, I know my parenting isn’t perfect, and I understand that others have opinions of my parenting. But in the long run, I’m the one responsible for molding my 3 little pre adults to become respectful, independent members of society. Just like all of you are out there doing the same. Keep on, keepin’ on my friends!
Being a responsible pet owner isn’t always a cake walk.
I’m a dog person. I’ve had one cat in my life, while he was a great cat, I’ll never get another. Simply because he was so great that I know I’ll never find another like him. My luck, I’ll get a sassy, hissing, anti-people cat who hides when someone walks in the door. No offense, but that’s just not my idea of a pet. I grew up with dogs my entire life. Mostly big dogs, large breed pooches. If you point out a dog, I can name the breed without the help of Google. Even if it’s a mixed breed. Now that I think of it, maybe I missed my calling. Hmm. Anyway, dogs are important to me. I believe every household, especially a household with children, should have a dog. Not only because they’re truly the most loyal friend and family member you’ll ever find but because they also teach everyone in the home something. My kids have learned responsibility through our animals, they teach us about life and death, and they teach us how to let go even when it’s hard. I’ll explain.
Nick and I adopted our first dog when Numero Dos was just a few months old. We were living in a rental house that allowed animals. Our landlord was great, he allowed any breed of dog, unlike many landlords and apartment associations. Once we decided we were going to find our family a pet, we of course went to the animal shelter. We found her at the shelter the week of the Boston Marathon bombing. We chose to name her Boston, in light of all the lives lost and changed by that horrific day, we saved a life. She may have been a dog, nevertheless, she was a life. Almost like our very own memorial. If that makes sense. She was a skinny little Pit Bull, so scared and just yearning for someone to love. Being an experienced dog owner and having owned plenty of large breeds, I knew what we were getting ourselves into when we chose a dog from a bully bloodline. I used some paid time off to pick her up a few days after we picked her, she had to stay the extra few days to get spayed. PSA: Please spay/neuter your animals! Shelters are so over crowded with animals that are trying to find homes, no need to produce more on the side. Now, I won’t go on and on about Pit Bull type dogs, and their negative stigma because I would sound like a broken record, and I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. While I personally believe they are amazing family dogs, I’m also not naive. I know that bad things happen to our breed, which makes me believe that not all of them have the ability to be that amazing family dog they would have liked to be. Meaning, animals are born into this world not having a choice who their owner will be. Sadly enough, the only choice they have in their life is to live or die. Survival of the fittest. A dog is just like every other animal out there, and no matter the breed, they will do whatever they feel necessary to survive. Bottom line.
Our Bossy was a big girl to say the least. Full grown, she weighed anywhere from 75-80lbs on any given day. 75lbs was a more ideal, healthy weight for her but she would pack on some lbs during the winter months. And much like many women, she struggled to get it off once the weather started getting nicer. Her and Numero Dos were the same age, to the month. It was amazing to see them grow up together. They shared toys, they got into arguments with one another, and just loved each other. That bond, the bond between a child and their dog is something special. Once Boston was about 1 and a half, we took in one more pooch. Nick came across her on the book of face. A friend posted a picture of this cute brown Pit Bull. Saying that his daughter brought her home without permission and she now needed a home. Nick sent me a screenshot and my immediate response was, “go get her”. She was 5 months old when she came home to us. Boston wasn’t fond of her in the first few hours of us having her but they ended up being sisters. We named her Brooklyn. Out of all the dogs I’ve had in my lifetime, our Brooky girl is by far the best dog. She does have one thing she struggles with, jumping. When someone new comes to the house, she will jump on you. Then a good 2 minutes later, she’s gone doing what she does. Not having a care in the world.
Once I was pregnant with Numero Tres, Boston started acting a little off. I didn’t think much into it until she started to become an escape artist. Pitties are known for this, it’s a trait of theirs. They like the challenge but our girl has never been one to do this. We have a large fenced in backyard. At the time, one side of the fence was a 4ft wooden fence, the rest was 6ft. Being a large breed dog, her hips weren’t the best but she still found a way to make it over that fence. I finally saw it with my own eyes one day. She wouldn’t jump the fence, she was scaling the fence. Literally climbing the fence with her two front paws/legs. Her back legs weren’t of much help, so she used all upper body strength to hurl herself over. Once she was over, she was gone. There was no stopping her. I can’t even count how many times we had to canvas the neighborhood for her. At one point, she was ripping slats of the fence off one by one, just enough for her to fit her not so slender body through. That’s when Brooklyn would either go with her to take on the town like Thelma and Louise or she would come find me. “Look mom, Boston left again”. Finally after our fence was being destroyed by her, we bought a 10×10 chain link dog run. Hoping that would at least keep her contained. Nah. She pretty much laughed in our faces. She didn’t climb or jump out, she chewed and pulled her way out. She ended up mangling the chain link. I told you, she was a hefty girl who had a lot of strength in her. If she wasn’t mangling the chain link of the dog run to get out, she was barking. Over, and over, and over. Just sitting, barking, non-stop. We were at a loss. We couldn’t keep her contained and we couldn’t keep her quiet.
It had been 9 months of Boston escaping us until the day we got a call from the Sheriff. The dogs had been missing for over 2 hours. Nick and I split up taking two cars searching for them. My brother-in-law even came to help. We had 3 vehicles on the hunt. I got the call just before dark from the Sheriff letting us know he had our dog and his location. In that very same minute that I was on the phone with the Sheriff, Nick got a call from a random guy saying he picked up our dog. Both girls were found simultaneously. They were running the neighborhood together but each got picked up by different people. Did I mention that I was 38 weeks pregnant? Well, I was. Like I said, Boston was a beefy girl. She had substance to her, and for someone who doesn’t know her, she could look extremely intimidating. Knowing this, we knew that her getting out of the yard wasn’t safe for her. If she got into the wrong hands during one of her strolls through the hood, it could end badly. They could use her for things that I won’t even speak of or she could have simply been shot by someone who feared her. Luckily, the person who found her, called the police. When we pulled up, there was Boston, being held an arm’s length away on one of those dog catching poles. She was wiped! Down right exhausted from all of their fun. We got a stern talkin’ to by the Sheriff and were told if it happened again, we would be fined. We completely understood, thanked the Sheriff for taking her on, and went on our way to pick the next culprit up. Brooklyn got picked up by a good samaritan. He watched her almost get hit by a car, and was kind enough to grab her. When we got to the man’s house, our Brooky was on his couch with a bowl of water. We expressed our gratitude then headed home with both girls in tow.
By the time we got home it was time to get Numero Uno and Dos in bed for the night. They weren’t in bed for no longer than 30 minutes until we had to wake them up to head to the hospital. I was in labor! All the stress, anxiety and running around threw me into labor. Numero Tres was here just a few hours later.
Once we were all back home from the hospital, Boston started her antics again. Well, not really again since she never actually stopped but you know what I mean. Numero Tres was 2 days old and here I was, loading he and Numero Dos up in the car to chase after Boston. After that day, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. Nick had been telling me for months that we cannot keep doing this but I couldn’t let go. I felt as if I was letting her down. I kept trying to fix her, make excuses for her behavior, going to extreme measures to keep her but I had to let go. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. It was so painful. Even though I took it the hardest, it was hard on all of us. We found a rescue to take her in, and she was adopted out within days of being there. Thank God! Now I just hope that she went to the right person or family. It’s been a little over 2 years now without her and looking back with a clear head and understanding the situation, as much as we thought we were her family, we weren’t. Once our family dynamic started to change, she changed. She outgrew us. She needed more and we weren’t able to give her what she needed anymore. It has taken me a very long time to come to terms with it all. I still can’t talk about her without tearing up because there’s always that feeling that I gave up on her. I’m not a quitter and even though she put us through the ringer, I can’t help but feel as if I quit her. No amount of time will heal me but knowing that she was adopted out quickly, it helps me get through it. I’ve learned that to be a good dog owner, you have to do what’s best for the dog. Even if that means breaking your heart in return. We tried many things to keep her happy with us but in the end, she needed more. We weren’t her forever family, and as I’m not necessarily okay with that, I have come to terms with it as much as I possibly can. There are many unforeseen reasons that a person or family would have to give up their pet, and not one of those reasons makes it easy on us.
I wanted to share my experience because just last week, we took in a pooch. He is still getting used to us, just as we are getting used to him but we have major confidence that we will be his forever home. The newest member of our crew came from a home of 3 kids, like ours, and a family that loves him. When I met him years ago, I knew I would take him if his family was ever put into a situation where they couldn’t keep him. So when we found out they needed to re-home him, Nick and I didn’t hesitate. I know that nothing will heal his previous families hearts from letting him go but I hope they have some peace knowing he is in a home with loving hearts that will do what we can to do right by him.
Just as we start coming down from our holiday high, it’s time to celebrate the first of the Birthday’s in my family, mine! In just a few days I’ll be 31! Holy moly! Still amazes me how fast the years go by once you’re all adult like. Ha! December is a busy month for us with Nick’s birthday then Numero Dos’ birthday just 2 days after his, Christmas of course, and New Year’s. Even with all the hustle and bustle, it’s always a good month in our house. Nick celebrated his 30th this past December. 30! He doesn’t know it, but I took a good amount of time admiring him and his life on his special day. In 30 short years he’s accomplished so much. Yes, of course we built our life together as a team and continue to but he deserves a hell of a lot of credit. He is without a doubt, one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known. I could very well be bias on this because he is my husband but that’s neither here nor there.
He’s worked construction for his company for 7 years now, and in those 7 years, he has called off twice. Both of which he was hospitalized and under doctors care. Never did he once wake up not feeling well and say, I can’t go to work. No matter what we have going on in our lives or what kind of sickness snuck up on him, he takes his butt to work, does his best and makes our money. He recently got hurt on the job, nothing terribly serious but did have to leave the job site to get stitches. I kid you not, he went back to work as soon as he was stitched up. Didn’t skip a beat. I don’t even think he grabbed himself lunch on his way back. Who does that? That’s just one tiny example of his incredible work ethic. Even though we’ve had a falling out with a few important figures in his life, I will give credit where credit is due. His grandfather instilled that work ethic into him at a young age. I obviously wasn’t around during his childhood but from what I hear, his grandfather was a hard-working bad-ass who taught Nick and his brother to be the same. He is just that, and some.
He made his way to the foreman position after just 2 years of being with the company. Started as a laborer doing the grunt work, making maybe $10/hr to now driving a company truck, running jobs like it’s nobody’s business, and bringing in enough money to support our family of 5 on his salary alone. That right there is saying something because Numero Uno eats like a horse so feeding him and his hockey fees would be my pay at the Investment Firm. Something that has always made him stand out from other foreman, not just within his company but I assume within other companies as well is the respect he has for his guys. I’m sure there a few that he wouldn’t go to bat for but if he sees someone coming to work everyday and taking care of business, he will do what he can to take care of them and build them up. Nick is “that” foreman that the guys either love or hate. The hate is usually for one obvious reason, laziness. From what I know of my husband, he doesn’t do lazy. You better be ready to work and work hard if you want any kind of respect from him. If his guys come to work and put in their all, he’s the guy that will recognize it. I can’t count how many times he has treated his guys to a big lunch after a job. There are times they’re on the same job for 8+ weeks of 6 days a week, 10-12 hour days, he makes sure they know how appreciative he is. I didn’t get it when he first started doing the lunches. In my head, Nick isn’t getting anything for finishing the job aside from his usual wages. He isn’t getting a bonus for every completed job so why does he feel like he needs to compensate them? I get it now. If you treat your guys right, they’ll do right by you. They’ll work their hardest to get the job done ahead of time if they know their foreman appreciates them. I know if I were them, I’d appreciate that free lunch every once in a while.
He puts in an unbelievable amount of overtime hours, sometimes drives 2+ hours each way to get to/from his job sites then comes home and immediately jumps into his dad role. It amazes me. Don’t get me wrong, there are days that I have to give him a not so gentle reminder to step up his game (either the “look” or a quick snide remark) when he gets home but 98% of the time, he takes charge as soon as he steps foot in the house. Just like my role as mom never stops, neither does his role as dad. We’ve had numerous “talks” aka arguments about how much he works but let’s be realistic. No work, no money. No money, no house. No house, very unhappy wife. It has taken me some time to get used to it but I completely understand the work-life hustle now. Work is very important when you’re the sole provider for a family of five, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for Nick’s incredible work-ethic.
The holidays make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love everything about the holidays. But there’s one thing that I absolutely dread. Thinking about the holiday schedule makes my head spin. Once everyone starts getting married and having kids of their own, it’s hard to get everyone together to celebrate. Especially when you’re part of a blended family. Holidays are tricky for us because Numero Uno has SO much family to see that it gets pretty crazy. “Did you guys have him last year for Christmas Day or Eve?”. “Did we have him for Thanksgiving?”. It’s always a real crap shoot. Yes, we have a court ordered agreement that was devised 9 years ago but that court order is generic and isn’t always in the child’s best interest. A judge obviously doesn’t know your child on a personal level. Ours states that we alternate Christmas/Christmas Eve each year.
When I originally looked it over I thought that meant that one year I would have Christmas and the next I would have Christmas Eve. Nope. I interpreted it very wrong. It included both Christmas Eve AND Day for that year. That meant there would be years that one of us didn’t have him either day. He wasn’t going to be able to open Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning or even Christmas Eve with his other siblings (once they came along). I had an all out meltdown the first year. I was literally beside myself. I was going to spend Christmas Eve and Day without Numero Uno! That Christmas won the title of “The worst Christmas, ever”! It was my own fault because I didn’t read the agreement more carefully but it still hurt so terribly bad. Once I realized that I had misunderstood the agreement, I begged, I pleaded, and I sobbed on the phone with Numero Uno’s dad but considering it was already Christmas Eve, they had made plenty of plans with family for those two days. I was truly beside myself, couldn’t hold it together if my life depended on it. He had just turned two that October. He was just starting to understand the whole Christmas concept of Santa and gifts. I remember his dad picking him up from the chicken coop, I could barely move. I didn’t want to give him up but I knew I had to. I couldn’t help but feel alone, I was empty without him, he was all I knew, my best friend. My mom, brother and sister-in-law all came over to exchange gifts so I wouldn’t be alone. Even though they tried their best and I absolutely appreciated it, nothing was going to help with the way I felt at that time.
After that year, we agreed to alternate those 2 days better. The first few years we alternated Christmas for one of us then Christmas Eve for the other, it worked for a while but started getting frustrating once his siblings started to understand the holiday. How were we going to keep the whole Santa gig going if he opens his gifts at one house on Christmas Eve? Yea, we can tell him Santa dropped them off early but that just didn’t feel right. Whether we have him for Christmas day or not, I always want to make sure he opens his Santa gifts on Christmas Day with his other siblings too, even if that means driving to pick him up or drop him off at 8am Christmas morning. He needs that special morning with both of his families. We might be able to navigate around that morning a little better once he stops “believing”. Which I was thinking was going to be this year but apparently not. He’s still a tried and true believer of the big guy. There may have been some accidental clues that he came across leading to it all being a big hoax but whether he’s caught on or not, he hasn’t asked any questions. Nick and I are actually excited when that day comes because we really think he will enjoy being in on the big hoax. He can be in on it all, be the secret helper to make sure all the little ones remain believers until they’re older. As crazy as his siblings make him some days, he still loves doing things for them. I’m selfishly hoping he will be excited to take over the task of hiding the elf (Elf on the shelf, google it). That darn elf!
Now days we usually start getting the holiday plan together right after Thanksgiving. Just in case we have some unforeseen obstacles to hurdle, it gives us time to work through it. Their plans reflect our plans and vice versa so getting our thoughts out there early on really helps. It seems like an impossible task considering there are so many moving parts but we do our best to make sure he is able to spend the holidays with ALL of his family. Our holidays are yet another time that we show how unconventional we are but it also shows others that it can be done. Blending your family is a tough task but if you really have that shared little human as your main objective, it’s going to be crazy but it won’t be impossible.
Often I get asked if having 3 kids is harder than having 2. Heck yea it’s harder! There is absolutely no doubt about that. Being a mom of 2 was easy breezy for me. Maybe me being a single-mom with Numero Uno in a sense “conditioned” me but having 2 was no different than having 1. I’m sure me being used to doing it on my own the first time around had a lot to do with it. I was working full-time, was a wife and a mother of 2, and was still able to keep up with the rest of the great moms out there. Nick and I were happy with having two, but once I resigned from the office, we changed our minds and gave it a go. About two weeks after we had decided to try, we had some reservations. Thought maybe we should give it a few months, see how I like being home, figure out life with one income. We were a few weeks too late. Low and behold, I was already pregnant. Just like that! I took a test 2 weeks after we started trying, which just so happened to be on my birthday. I remember waking up with the kids, nonchalantly walking into the bathroom thinking it couldn’t happen that fast. I walked back into the bedroom, test in hand and screamed, “I’m pregnant” to Nick and the kids. Nick was in disbelief. He thought there was no shot in hell it would happen so soon. I don’t know why neither of us believed it because both of my previous pregnancies were unplanned so we both knew by now that I was fertile myrtle. From that day on, it got real in this house!
My first 2 pregnancies were pretty easy. With Numero Uno, I could barely tell I was with child. Well, until I looked at my feet and ankles. They were puffy! Real puffy! Other than that, I felt good. I chalk that up to being young and spry. Being pregnant with your first is very chill. No other little humans to chase after, you can nap whenever you feel tired but once you already have 2, one of them being very active in sports and the other still a toddler, it’ll getcha. My second pregnancy was rougher, I was 4 years older and had those additional lbs from my first to carry around but all in all, still wasn’t much to complain about. I worked full-time up until she was born. Left work on a friday at 4:30pm and by Saturday night, I was pushing. By the time I was pregnant with Numero Tres, I wasn’t working anymore, I was home with the babes and just trying to figure out how to be an at home parent. No alarm clock waking me every morning to get ready for work, no stress of being late to the office, no obligations, just me and the babes. It was like that in the beginning then my nausea would end up getting the best of me somedays. And the lack of rest. Not the lack of sleep, but actually being able to sit down to rest for 10 minutes without either having to pee, throw up or do something for the other two babes. That was rough.
I was a single-mom working full-time when I had Numero Uno. Took 2 weeks off work then went right back to it. Literally had zero time to waste because my workplace didn’t offer paid maternity leave. Which I could go on and on about that but let’s stick on subject here. Anyway, so once I had Numero Dos, I was working at the Investment Firm, again with unpaid maternity leave but was able to take off a little more time since I had Nick there to take over financially. I took off 4 weeks completely then after those 4 weeks, I would work from home a little and go into the office as needed. A few hours at a time to not only help them out but it also benefitted me because I was obviously getting paid for the hours I was putting in. They were great and very flexible with me. My Principals had families and they totally understood the importance of family so Numero Dos would tag along with me to in-office trips between weeks 4 and 8. I could have taken a full 12 week leave but I thought it’d be best for me to go back at 8 so we wouldn’t struggle to catch up financially. I couldn’t even imagine going back to work after adding the third to the mix. He’s a little over 2 years old and I still wouldn’t be able to work. I would have to be bringing in some pretty hefty paychecks to be able to afford the cost of a nanny for the trio. Trust me, I’ve done the math, I know the exact amount I would have to bring home after taxes for me to make it worth my time and effort to be back in the workforce. This is something that makes having 3 harder than having 2. It’s no longer just sending 2 off to daycare for 9-10 hours a day. It’s pick-ups and drop-offs to/from 3 different schools and at 3 different times. Daycare wouldn’t even be an option due to the fact that I have a 2 year old, 5 year old and 9 year old. Very different age groups makes it hard to use a daycare. So as for right now, a full-time nanny would be our only option.
The infant stage is my favorite. I can usually go full steam ahead on just a few hours of sleep because I have never actually been good at the whole sleeping thing. The women on my mom’s side of the family all have sleep issues and that gene didn’t skip over me. Sleeping pills are our savior! I was used to being up late, not being able to fall asleep like a man does, and waking up before daylight with the birds. I had been sleep deprived since high school and I didn’t think a third would phase me. Waking up 4-5 times a night for what seemed like an eternity each time then waking up with the other 2 for the day, all while the littlest nugget was sound asleep through mid-morning was hard. And hard is an understatement. I just gave birth to my 3rd healthy babe and literally had no time in between. It’s like I was expecting a break or something. Maybe life could spare me a quick transition period? No? Didn’t think so. One of the hardest things about having multiple kids was having to leave them to go pop out another. If you don’t have any complications during labor and delivery, you can be released 24 hours after giving birth. I knew that so no more than 30 minutes after he was born, I was making sure all of my nurses knew that we were out of that place at the 24 hour mark. I needed to be home with our other babes. Even though they were both at the hospital during majority of my labor, I couldn’t stand being away from them for long. We had family at the hospital helping with them but unfortunately, they weren’t able to meet him the night he was born because it ended up being late and they needed to be in bed for school. They did both come to meet him the very next day. As soon as Numero Uno was out of school, his dad brought him to the hospital to meet his 4th sibling. Which is one of the many things I love about that kid. I still see his face light up with each of them. You’d think he would be sick of siblings by now but it doesn’t get old for him. At least I don’t think.
Juggling a newborn, a toddler and an active 7 year old was difficult. I tell people all the time that life was easier and less hectic for me when I was working full-time and had 2 kids than it is now not working and having 3. Now that they’re getting older, it’s difficult in other ways. So many more activities to juggle. If I didn’t have my phone calendar, the dry erase calendar on the side of the fridge, the dry erase board on the front of the fridge listing all events and meal plan for that specific week AND my tiny personal calendar in my purse, I would not be able to function. Yes, I probably over-do it with the calendars but what would happen if I ever lost one? Or two? Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out. I was so scatterbrained in the beginning, I couldn’t keep anything straight, I was getting so forgetful. Hence all the calendars. Not to mention, dementia runs in our family so that started to scare me. I wasn’t even 30 at this point but I couldn’t help but think that I was being affected by it. I had zero structure or routine. Maybe the dementia gene will eventually catch me but as for now, it was just structure that I needed. It’s like I had forgotten that I had just come from a life of doing the same thing every day and I was going to be able to wing it now. It was unrealistic. Once I got back on track with a schedule it got a little better. Being a mom of three is never easy but having my schedule, calendars and list of To-Do’s made life less chaotic.
I, like many others, also thought that I had to spend equal amount of time with all 3. Rookie mistake. That’s nearly impossible. Especially when one of them is in school for almost 7 hours a day. How in the world am I going to make up all of that time? Keep him up til’ 2am just so I can make sure I’m giving him equal time with me? It’s all about give and take. If I see him just hanging out in his room, I’ll go bug him. Make some small talk. Chat it up for a bit until he tells me to go kick rocks and leave him alone. Even if I only got his full attention for 5 minutes, it was still time that I had with him and he had with me. Just like our car rides together to/from hockey practices and games. That’s another time that we get each other’s full and undivided attention. Some days we sit in silence driving and other days he won’t stop talking but again, it’s another instance that we actually have time together. I used to be hard on myself about the time that I spent at home with Numero Tres compared the time that I spent with the older ones but now I just try to make the time that I do have with the other’s, the best time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably screaming like a lunatic because the youngest is running around without pants on, or I just caught the dog eating someone’s food off the table but either way, I’m still trying here and they know that. We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
When we bought our house, I wasn’t SOLD on it. It’s an old home which means it has old home problems. I wasn’t into that idea. We’re set on a little under a half acre of land so that was a major plus for a family of 4 (5 now but 4 at the time). Another thing that I did love was that we had a bonus room. It’s situated in the back of the house with a little half bath off it. Perfect for the kids toy room. Well, we thought it was perfect until we realized that it was the only room in the house that had carpet. Light carpet to be exact. Light carpet and multiple young children doesn’t exactly mix well. At least not these young children. The rest of the house has original hardwood floor, I adore it! It has that true original feel and look to it. You can see old staple holes from the many layers of carpeting that was laid over it throughout the years. Unfortunately, the toy room carpeting had nothing but sub-floor underneath. Womp Womp. I had dealt with the carpeting for about 2 and a half years before one day I said, enough is enough already. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was constantly shampooing it in hopes I could bring some life back into it but it was too far gone.
One day I walked into the toy room to find Numero Tres drawing large circles on the carpet with marker. Marker! Yes, it was Crayola washable but it still doesn’t come out easily. I would have to put some elbow grease into it. I immediately called my husband to vent. I explained aka screamed that I had enough of the carpet and it needs to come out. He told me that we will do it soon but not right now. That’s when I took matters into my own hands. I called him back a few minutes later and asked him to bring the ShopVac home with him. Little did he know, it was because I needed to vacuum up all the staples and nails that were left behind from me ripping all the carpet up. By the time he got home from work, I had the carpet and padding pulled up and in the driveway ready to go to the street for garbage day. He walked in and said, now what? I said, now tomorrow I shop for flooring. With a big, loving smile on my face!
The following day the kids and I went from flooring stores to hardware stores looking for the right flooring for the perfect price. I didn’t want ceramic because when ceramic gets wet, it gets slippery. Considering I would like all of my kids to keep their pearly whites until adulthood, ceramic was out. Hardwood was an expensive option and also an option that I didn’t feel confident in installing myself. Laminate, eh. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some say it’s great some say it’s a waste of money. The toy room has 3 exterior doors off it so I wanted something that would be durable enough for the kids and dog, not turn into a slip and slide when wet and affordable. I ended up going with a faux hardwood peel and stick vinyl tile from Lowes. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
I bought all the supplies that I needed including the cement stuff to level out the sub floor in areas that were uneven. I made sure the sub floor was clean, dry and even then started my DIY day. YouTube came in handy, I looked up the basics and was on my way. Started in the middle and went outward.
The insides took me no more than an hour, probably less. The edging was the most time consuming part. Having to measure, mark, cut and install each edge, wasn’t fun but I did it. I happened to do this project on a day that we were having a few family members over for a cook-out. I started early in the morning and had all 3 kids home with me. I know, it was a crazy thing to do but that’s me, the most impatient, non- procrastinator there is. My husband told me throughout the day that he would do the edges when he got home from work but I just couldn’t allow that. If I was going to do something, I was going to do it right and get it done from start to finish. By the time he got home I only had a few more pieces to go, our guests were showing up and I still hadn’t even showered for the day let alone get any kind of meal prepared. At this point, I allowed it, I accepted the help. And if you’ve read my previous post, you’ll understand that accepting help is huge! My husband and brother in law laid the last 5-7 pieces and the toy room re-do was finished!
At the end of the day, I did it! I ripped up carpeting and laid down some pretty sweet vinyl tile. The room is 194 square feet, it cost me just under $200 in supplies and about 5 hours to complete. That 5 hours also consisted of diaper changes, nap times, lunches and just kids in general.
You know that saying, “You are your mother’s daughter”? That’s me. I was raised to be independent, and my independence is something that I have always took pride in, maybe too much pride at times. Having to discuss almost every life decision that I make with my husband and not just going for something is a huge challenge for me. I’ve always been a go-getter and have never been afraid of change, I live for it actually but being a stay-at-home mom was a wake up call for me. I lost every ounce of independence when I chose to resign from my position at the Investment Firm.
During the first year of Numero Uno, I had a support system with my family and friends but not too much support. I am grateful for the level I was given in the beginning of myself as an independent woman. Independence wasn’t something that I was taught, it was something that I picked up from experiences during my childhood into adulthood. Along with a few other women in my life, my mom and maternal grandmother have always been strong influences. My grandmother passed last April but that woman’s legacy will always remain strong in my heart for the rest of my life. I love hearing stories of her when she was young. I remember seeing a lot of myself in her at times but she was also a force to be reckoned with and I’m not quite that much of a bad ass. You’ll have to trust me when I tell ya, she was somethin’ else.
Growing up, I watched my mom tread through an extremely hard marriage with alcoholism, addiction, and domestic abuse involved. A marriage that she eventually got out of to better herself, my brother, and I. There are things that I know now that I had no idea of while I was young, and that just goes to show how much she protected her kids. I can’t even imagine what we could have been exposed to if she wasn’t there to shield us. Watching her overcome that time of her life and being with her when she became a single mother of two, I knew I could take anything life had to throw at me. Well, until I became an at home mom.
I learned early on that life doesn’t always go as planned but I’ve learned to adapt and embrace what I have earned and been blessed with. I gave birth to Numero Uno knowing that I was going to be a single mom right out of the gate but I took it and ran with it, ran far far away with it. It wasn’t long after his first birthday that he and I moved out of my mom and stepdad’s house into our own apartment. It was just the two of us, on our own in the world. Granted the place should have been a pigeon coop, it was what I could afford at the time so we stuck it out. At this time, I was working as an Esthetician at a Spa that I had also worked as a Front Desk Receptionist for a few years. Not long after moving into the pigeon coop, I took a role in management at the Spa. Making decent money for my age and as a single-mom but we definitely were not well off. We were on the second floor of a small two-flat that felt like it was made out of popsicle sticks. Numero Uno had his own room with all of his little boy belongings and cute little boy decor. There were more than a few nights of us eating Ramen noodles for dinner but I still walked past that room almost everyday to admire it. I did it! I got us here. That place will always be special to me because I earned it. I did what I could to get us into that pigeon coop and I kept us there. It wasn’t until after I made a huge career change, Nick and I started dating, got engaged, got pregnant with Numero Dos, got married, then gave birth to Numero Dos that we moved out of the coop. Sounds like all that would have been a few years in the making but that all happened within a year. Told you, I live for change.
I have been married for 5 years now and became an at home mom almost 3 years ago. In the beginning, I loved being home! I felt free from the stale corporate world that I was living in. I felt like being home with my kids was what I was here to do. Raise my own kids, teach them right from wrong, and just enjoy them every day. WRONG! All fun and games until reality smacks you in the head! Reality is that being the primary caregiver, the boo boo kisser, the naptime snuggle buddy, the referee, and disciplinarian of the house, it takes a toll on one. As a mom and a parent in general, we have to wear a plethora of hats. Hats that I never knew existed really and we’re just expected to be okay. Expected to be able to juggle all of these different roles while also maintaining yourself. That just isn’t real life, not my real life.
So here I was, stuck looking at the same four walls day in and day out without any adult interaction. I will preface by saying that I already had a pretty hefty shopping addiction before I decided to stay home. Which was fine at that time because I actually had the income to back it up. But soon after being home, I found myself going to Target and TJ Maxx on a daily basis so I could actually speak to someone who wasn’t 2 feet tall. Just to hang out in the real world for a bit. Not only was I killing our bank account but I started to feel myself drifting away. I lost myself. I lost all independence that I had and my life now revolved around my kids and husband. I truly believed that to be a successful stay-at-home mom, I had to hold everything on my shoulders without sharing the weight with Nick. I’m here to say, that’s a bunch of crap! There are days that he has to remind me that these kids have a dad. One of them has two dads for crying out loud. I have now learned to share my parenting responsibilities with him. If I don’t, I’ll go bonkers fighting my own demons.
Writing has helped me get some independence back into my life, it has helped me express myself while also sharing my experiences with others. That is very important to me. My goal is to eventually reach people who are going through similar life experiences so they can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth that it does in fact get better! So. Much. Better! It wasn’t until I made myself a priority that I realized that. My advice to you is to get out there in the world. Do things that YOU enjoy doing. Go see a movie, dance, sing, or go kill it at the gym. Do whatever it is that makes you feel like yourself and not just the roles you play at home for your family. Those roles aren’t all you are. They aren’t what defines you as a person. You can still be that amazing mother and/or wife without losing yourself. I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, an aunt, a sister and a friend but being a mom was all I knew for a while. Luckily, I figured out that being a mom isn’t the only person that I am. I have overcome a lot in my life and am still tackling things as I go but I know now that I am my own hero and I encourage you to you be your own hero.
Honing in on one ultimate goal as a blended family
Our life as a blended family started when Numero Uno was just an infant, a newborn really. His step-mom has been around since he was born (gasp, holds chest, glares at me). That’s the reaction I usually receive when my story is told. I’m used to it by now. Although his dad and I separated shortly after finding out I was pregnant, I didn’t know she existed until he was about 11 months old. That’s when I met her for the first time. It was hard, still is but for different reasons now. Over the years we’ve gotten to know each other not just as individuals but as mothers. And not just mothers to each of our own children but to Numero Uno. The thought of sharing my role as Mom was difficult to swallow but now that I’m in the mix of it, she’s been a life-saver! If I wasn’t able to be there for him either physically or emotionally, she’s had me covered. Just last week she and I attended his parent teacher conference together. My husband hung out at home with all of our combined kids while we chatted it up with his teacher. This is something we have done as long as he’s been in the school system which is confusing to teachers until we introduce ourselves. So many find it shocking to see a mother and step-mother in the same room together; let alone the same parent teacher conference talking, laughing, finishing one another’s sentence about our kid but this is our norm. It’s what we know, what we’ve grown a custom to.
My past has had a lot to do with my understanding and willingness to accept the love and support that his step-mom and her family have to offer him. My parents divorced when I was in 6th grade, maybe 7th. I just remember that it was a long, drawn out war between them. My childhood was great. My brother and I had an awesome time as kids. Our parents were average middle class, hard working folks that gave us their all. We spent a good amount of time with both of our parents throughout our childhood, not just separately once the divorce was final but also together as a family before the divorce. We sat down at the dining room table for dinner every night, we did fun things on the weekends like trips into the city doing touristy stuff, and just hanging out doing those 1,000 piece puzzles in the living room. I have to make sure that Numero Uno remembers his childhood like this. Remembers that we all had him in our best interests. That everything we do, we do it for he and his siblings. I never want him to see that we aren’t getting along, or that we’re disagreeing on something. I’ve lived the life he is living now, I’ve seen both sides and I’d much rather him only see the good side of split/divorced homes. I know nobody’s life is perfect, including my own but I’ll continue to do everything in my power to give them my all.
My husband Nick and I married when Numero Uno was 3. We had known one another and been close friends since we were young and was actually one of our first visitors once we were home from the hospital after he was born. Nick and Numero Uno’s dad have both been important role models and father figures in his life. In my opinion, the bond between a father and son is different than mother son. The level of respect is higher as if they have some unwritten man code that they all abide. I don’t get it but I see it and feel it everyday. I am grateful that he can share that strong bond with not only his biological father but with the man I chose to marry. Over the past 9 years, the 4 of us have equally shared the parenting role and have all managed to put him first, above anything else. I personally have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. Which again is another time that he has taught me a lesson without even knowing it. Patience, vulnerability, my own stubbornness, the list goes on. It has never been rainbows and butterflies and will likely never be but I’m okay with that. As long as he feels the love that we all have for him, all is good in my mind.
Being part of a blended family is no walk in the park and just like every other family out there, we have had our differences. A lot of them! I won’t go into specifics because “ain’t nobody got time for that”, but I will tell you that we always get through whatever differences we do have. Whether it be by just ignoring it until it comes up again, actually talking it through, or simply agreeing to disagree. Nine years later, there are still times that I personally have to take a deep breath and focus on the main objective and put my own thoughts and feelings to the side. He has 4 parents that somehow manage to keep our crap together and I’m positive that it sucks sometimes having to answer to and be reprimanded by 4 adults but ultimately, he has the best of both worlds. He has 4 parents including each of our families that do everything we can for him and and give him a world of support. And I’m sure he feels pretty cool walking into his hockey games with an entourage behind him. This boy is our goal.
My oldest son is the inspiration for this blog, he started me, he opened my eyes to so many things. I was 21 when my life began; that’s when Numero Uno was born. He was born with a mild hearing loss, a hearing loss that the hospital detected not even 24 hours after he was born, a hearing loss that would change my perspective on life.
When you become a first-time mom, nothing and no one is going to tell you that your precious baby has anything “wrong” with them. I was young. A young first-time mom. Yes, I had done and seen a lot in those 21 years but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to be faced with. Here he was, a squishy little baby boy who I had carried for what felt like a year, and I finally got to meet him! The joy that comes with your first child is something you can’t verbalize. That joy was suddenly taken away and replaced with fear and what-if’s as soon as that nurse came in to take him for testing. In the hospital when you give birth, they want you to stay with baby as much as possible, you know, for the mother/baby bonding time. They only take baby from you when they do all of their usual newborn tests and screens. He was on his way to have the hearing screen and whatever other tests they do at that time. Shortly after, a nurse came back into my postpartum room to tell me that they found some inconsistencies in his heart. They needed to do a full EKG, and he wouldn’t be released until a cardiologist looked over the results. That threw me into panic mode, but in the end, everything was fine. Phew! Then came his hearing screen results. He failed. They performed the screen multiple times and told me that it was likely just amniotic fluid left in his ears. That wasn’t the case. He needed to be seen at a different hospital, one that could do more extensive hearing screens and tests. And I did just that. I made an appointment with an audiologist when he was only a few weeks old. He would have to be asleep for the test or they would have to sedate him. Here I was again, more fear.
The audiologist stuck little electrode things all over him, his chest, his head, and behind his ears. I wish I would have taken photos, but back then, I had a Motorola Razor or something along those lines, nothing that was any good at taking photos. The audiologist started the testing, which I had no idea what it was called and again, being a young first-time mom, I didn’t ask any questions. If I had known the things I know now, that audiologist would have been running from the room. They sent sounds into his ears, then waited for his brain response. Bottom line, his audiogram showed that he had a mild hearing loss. A mild hearing loss? What the hell was that? What does that even mean? Well, there’s a very broad explanation. Each case is different, but basically, he wasn’t able to hear deep, low sounds. The audiologist’s example was the sound of leaves rustling in the wind on a fall day. My son wouldn’t be able to hear that clearly or at all without the help of hearing aids. Say what? My 4-week-old baby was going to need hearing aids! I was devastated. Why did this happen? Was I not taking enough Folic Acid during my pregnancy? Was it all those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Queso that I ate during my pregnancy? What was it? Nobody knows! It took me years to come to terms with it–I actually ignored his hearing loss for a while. My baby was perfect, he could hear just fine, there was nothing “wrong” with him. Well, he was fitted with his first pair of aids when he was about 3 months old. I tried to get him to wear them and keep them in but I wasn’t stern. The tiny pair of aids sat in a special cup for about 2 years. It wasn’t until his step-mom sent me a link regarding his hearing loss and the use of hearing aides. Yes, his step-mom. His dad has always been an active part of his life, along with his step-mom and her family. She set up a speech therapy appointment to be sure that he was speaking as an average 2-year-old without hearing loss would be speaking. Again, I had my reservations and was taken aback a bit at first by all of this, but in the end, I am extremely grateful and thankful for her taking the initiative.
The speech therapist made it clear that Numero Uno needed to be wearing his aids as much as possible. Think about it, he’s learning to talk. How is he going to learn how to speak correctly if he isn’t able to fully hear what is being said to him? At the time, I wasn’t thinking that way, I was clouded by something being “wrong” with my son. My own unawareness got in the way of my son’s well being. It was a hard pill to swallow, being able to admit that, being able to talk about it with others. I was ashamed. Ashamed that my son had a mild hearing loss and should have been wearing hearing aids. Trust me, I know now how absolutely selfish of me that was.
We went to speech therapy every week for a few months until the therapist told us that he was good to go. He was up to his chronological speaking age. He was surprisingly up-to-date even in the beginning of his speech therapy. I was lucky. I was very lucky that my ignorance did not hold him back. His resilience really showed through during this time. The kid couldn’t fully hear, yet here he was, smart as a whip. He was self-taught, listening and watching our mouth movement so he could speak correctly. A 2-year-old kid did that. Mind blown!
When I realized what could have happened due to my own ignorance, I made it my mission to educate myself and to share our journey through hearing loss. Of course, not just limited to hearing loss but to share my story with others so they can avoid the mistakes I made. I was clouded. Clouded by the stigma of society’s definition of perfection. Nobody is perfect and it took me a long time to figure that out. Even after being told that nobody was perfect, I had to find out for myself. My son taught me that without even trying. This innocent little boy had such an extreme impact on me.
He is now 9 and the most active kid EVER. He has been on the ice playing hockey since he was 3, he’s played baseball for just as long, he’s been out on the soccer field for a few seasons, he’s dabbled in MMA training, and he now tells me he wants to play Lacrosse. Ay Dios mio! Along with him being a huge athlete, he has also been in the top of his class every year.
Nothing was ever “wrong” with my son. Nothing. Ever! I know that now, and I also know that nothing is ever “wrong” with anyone. This was simply an obstacle that he and I learned and conquered together.