Destination Disney: Before you go, you should know

An avid Disney fan before there were children in my life to justify a trip to the theme parks, I have spent a lot of time reading various Disney articles and tips. As I reflect on my last two trips to Disney, and those two did include kids, I realized I have learned some things that will influence our future trips. So, allow my (many, many) hours on the internet and dollars spent on Disney to save you precious resources if you are planning, or hoping to plan, a trip to Disney.

Disney Travel Agent: I was surprised to learn that I could plan a trip with a Disney-certified travel agent at zero expense to me. Though I am Type A and like to control my own destiny (and everyone else’s), I decided to give this a shot. YOU NEED TO DO THIS.

We worked with Elizabeth at Destinations to Explore. She was a rockstar every step of the way. She reminded me of deadlines for booking restaurant reservations (which she booked for us) and Fast Passes (which I booked for us). When we had (perceived) problems with our Disney PhotoPass, she was immediately on the phone with Disney to ensure we didn’t miss a single photo (which we didn’t). She sent us a great pre-trip package that only fueled our excitement. And best of all, when the cost of our trip dropped slightly after our booking, she ensured we picked up those savings. You have nothing to lose by relying on an expert.

PhotoPass: On our first trip with the kids, which was a single day trip, we impulsively bought the PhotoPass option. It felt extravagant for one day (about $100), but we decided to give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever. We were so thrilled with the opportunity to have family photos without the dreaded selfie look. When we planned our 2017 trip, we knew we would get it again.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that for the entirety of our 3 day trip, it was about $169–and that by purchasing it in advance we only paid $149. TOTALLY worth it. I know it may feel like you’re getting nickel and dimed on extras, but this was money well spent. I encourage you to consider adding it to your trip…

Read the rest of this post on Indianapolis Moms Blog.

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…and baby makes five.

Last week we shared the exciting news with Ana and Yoseph that our family is growing by one–we are having a baby in the spring!

image1

As the news sunk in, there were LOTS of questions. I think the most heart-melting one came from Ana.

“So…what will we call the baby? It won’t be our stepbrother or stepsister, will it?” she asked uncertainly.

“No,” Tim and I answered in unison. “Just your brother or sister.”

Tim and I exchanged a look and a nod above her head. No discussion of half-siblings will be had. We will be full on brothers and/or sisters. Period.

But Yoseph also asked an interesting question as we began to wrap his mind around the idea that I would now be someone’s mommy and what that means for the mommy in his life.

“So wait,” he asked thoughtfully. “If Molly is the baby’s mommy, what will Mommy be? She won’t be the baby’s stepmom…will she just be the baby’s friend?”

“Yes,” Tim answered. “She will be the baby’s friend!”

It reminded me that there is still a lot of internal navigating that our kiddos do for their blended family situations. Just because I feel reasonably well-adapted most days doesn’t mean they always do and this was a good reminder. There’s always something more going on in those little brains and hearts than I can see.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder to be sensitive and compassionate with these precious children with whom I share a life.

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In Defense of Mother’s Day

For the last two years of my stepmotherhood, we have tried to figure out a good way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Tim took the kids to pick out fresh flowers, one of my favorite things. They signed sweet cards. But it always felt a little bit awkward.

When Yoseph’s class hosted a Mother’s Day tea, his mom immediately invited me to participate. But I declined. The kids should not have to share a special tea or art project gift for Mother’s Day. Splitting that specialness between me and the woman who raised them for years before I was ever in the picture just isn’t right. One can’t compare my role in their lives to the woman who traveled to foreign countries to bring them home, the woman who stayed up late with them while they were teething or colicky, and the woman who spent days potty training and helping them learn their ABCs.

Recognizing the Role

That is not to minimize the role that I play. On the contrary I believe I play a significant role in their lives–but let’s recognize what that role is. It is a supplemental, bonus role. Well we may strive for mother/father time to be divided 50-50, mother and stepmother roles are not and should not be 50-50.

Don’t get me wrong; I love them like crazy. And I believe they love me, too. I am the one they want when they wake up in the middle of the night with a nightmare. I am the one they ask about staying home when they’re sick (I no longer have any squeamishness about being vomited on). I am responsible for keeping school uniforms clean and healthy lunches packed. I make sure the socks and underwear in their drawers don’t get too ratty and that bathing suits fit. I am also responsible for making sure every fun movie is on the calendar and that we attend all of the opening weekends that we can. I plan family vacations to the beach and to Disney. And I make sure there are always sprinkles for the ice cream in the freezer.

Rethinking the Recognition

Mother’s Day is not for me. It shouldn’t be. But that’s not to say that I don’t serve a mother-type role in their lives and that I shouldn’t be recognized for it. But why compete with the day on which they should be recognizing and thanking their mom? Therefore, I propose a new holiday…Stepmom Day. I suggest that it be today, the Sunday after Mother’s Day. It gives moms their own special day and takes the heat off of kids who may feel pressured to share school art projects with handprints or to create two hand-drawn cards.

Let’s recognize the very different roles that moms and stepmoms play in their children’s lives and celebrate them accordingly. So on Mother’s Day, I will celebrate my mom and her incredible example of devotion, commitment, altruism, and more. And I will celebrate my mother-in-law, who raised a man who is completely devoted to me and our kids and who has shown me love from the beginning. And today, Stepmom Day, we celebrated with thoughtful gifts, a lunch of my choosing (cheeseburgers on the grill), and sweet cards. As a matter of fact, Ana’s card declared me, “The funnest stepmom I ever had”. Enough said.

Ana

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Listen to your Mother

Once upon a time, I saw on Facebook that a friend was auditioning for the Listen to your Mother show in Chicago. You write an original piece about some aspect of motherhood and then you read it. The twinge of jealousy I felt as I read her post quickly grew into more than a twinge.

“I want to do that!” I literally said out loud to myself. The problem was that though there are shows across the country, none were scheduled for Indianapolis. The closest one that still had auditions available was in southwest Michigan. So I went! And I was chosen! It made for lots of trips up and down US-31 for a few weeks for auditions, rehearsals, and then the performance itself on Sunday, May 7.

My piece was an edited version of two previous blog posts. My dear husband was kind enough to record a video of my performance (about 5 1/2 minutes). The transcript is below.

It was fun to have a new way to share the adventures of StepMolly!

Lessons Learned
Not too long ago, I was a single, 30-something woman living in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. My biggest concerns were keeping my basil plant alive and which dark roast coffee was brewing at Starbucks.

Then I met the most charming man named Tim…and now I am a wife and stepmom to two internationally adopted kids with a dog and a house in the suburbs. Actually, I’m not so much a stepmom as I am a StepMolly, which is the endearing nickname the kids bestowed upon me.

Lately, I have been thinking about these big life changes and the lessons I have learned. I have had an especially steep learning curve as a parent. I’m sure I’m not the first stepparent to learn some of these lessons, but they are new for me.

So, allow me to share some of the lessons I have learned as StepMolly.

Carry snacks. But if you forget to carry snacks, tic-tacs will do in a pinch.

Dessert is a powerful motivator.

Always insist they use the bathroom before you leave the house. Even if they insist they just went.

Soccer balls come in different sizes. This may not seem like a big deal or may even be a no-brainer for those of you who are more athletic than I. But when confronted with 5- 6 choices of sizes, let alone colors, it’s a paralyzing moment of indecision as to what would best suit my sports star daughter Ana.

A punishment of no TV hurts the parents more than the kids…especially when there’s a new season of House of Cards that I want to watch without them around.

There are few toys that thrill as much as a large, empty cardboard box.

Unless you’re 100% certain, buy each kid the same color. Of whatever it is.

Kids who you have to drag out of bed on a weekday at 6:30am will be by the side of your bed on Saturday at 5:45am, asking for breakfast and ready to begin the day.

The same children who do everything they can to bargain their way out of getting into the shower then complain when it’s time to get out of the shower.

They really do hear everything you say–especially when you’re talking about a sensitive subject in a low volume two rooms away.

They may not be able to find a misplaced, beloved stuffed animal but can find a speck of onion (or other undesirable vegetable) mixed in their meals.

Kids may be resilient, but make no mistake, divorce is hard on them.

Favorite colors are a really big thing. Like me, Ana’s favorite color is blue. Yoseph’s current favorite color alternates between tie-dye and golden–which is not the same as yellow, so please don’t make that mistake.

I love Christmas. It’s not unusual for me to have my tree up by Halloween. Well, I have learned that kids love the anticipation of Christmas almost as much as I do–especially Ana. So now I don’t have to feel embarrassed about my unseasonably early approach to Christmas–I can blame it on Ana!

And the #1 lesson learned: Those moments when they impulsively hug you or tell you they love you sometimes take your breath away. I have grown to love them and it’s so humbling that they have grown to love me, too.

But let me assure you that I am not the only one learning lessons in our family. Recently, Yoseph was the one who learned a lesson.

Our kids aren’t strangers to religion or discussions about faith. They attend Catholic school and when they’re with us, we attend an evangelical church. So I was surprised when during devotions one morning over breakfast, a reference to being God’s children prompted Yoseph to interrupt Tim.

“Wait,” he said, gesturing at me and Tim. “You’re God’s children, too?”

“Yup!” I answered. “Just like I’m Mimi’s child, and Dad is Gammy’s child–we are God’s children.”

“Oh!” he said to me, nodding with understanding at his lesson learned. “Just like I’m your child! And Mommy’s and Daddy’s, too.”

I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat. He identifies as MY child! Through his lesson learned, he showed me his heart.

Oh, Yoseph. We have both learned so much about each other—and undoubtedly there is much more ahead. I’m so glad you know that you and Ana belong to me and I to you.

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To Mom, or Not to Mom…

**This post was originally published on the Indianapolis City Moms Blog**

Once upon a time I was a proudly single, childless woman, living the dream in my downtown Indianapolis apartment. Then I met this charming, laid-back, handsome man named Tim whose passion for life was contagious. I was smitten and we began to plan for a shared life together.

He was a dad to two adorable, internationally adopted kids. Early on, even as Tim and I began to talk about getting married, there was never any doubt that the kids would not call me mom. They have one mom. My role in their life would be different. In my head, that completely made sense. And my heart appeared to be on board.

Becoming StepMolly

When we told the kids we were getting married, they grinned, whispered to each other, and then asked if they could call me StepMolly. I melted. It was the cherry on my sundae of anticipation of our life together.

Of course, I didn’t realize all of the complexities in creating the role of StepMolly the New Stepmom. I mean, how hard could it be?

If you are a parent in a blended family, or the product of a blended family, you probably just rolled your eyes. Or at least you should have. I was so naïve. Not only is parenting hard, but parenting half-time is hard. Co-parenting is hard. And an introvert transitioning from living alone to living with three people is no easy task, no matter how great those people are. But we managed through the transition and began to find our “normal”.

Nobody Has Ever Called Me “Mommy”

Last summer, with a whopping 18 months of marriage and stepparenting under my belt, I finally gave in to the pleadings of my husband and the kids to adopt a dog.

Tim wanted a giant dog (which I define as anything over 60 pounds) and I wanted a purse dog. Our compromise was Fergus, a 10 year old Miniature Schnauzer we rescued from a shelter in Lafayette. It didn’t take him long to settle in to his new home. Our family made our own adjustments for our newest member and life settled into another new normal.

But one day an unexpected doggie interaction stopped me in my tracks.

Trying to cajole the dog to follow me, Tim said to Fergus, “Go see your mommy! Go get mommy!”

No one has ever called me mommy. And I take no issue with being a dog mommy. But it was the first time that I felt a pang of something I couldn’t identify. My stomach burned. Was it longing? Sadness? Or just surprise? I still don’t actually know.

Growing our family with biological kids is not in our plan at this time. I have noticed, thought, that when I tell God my plans, He has a way of turning them on their head. So I always leave the window open a crack. In the meantime, I will continue to love on the furry one who calls me Mommy and the kids who call me Molly.

fergus-c

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Work/Life Balance

On a recent Saturday, we took the kids to visit my office in the Indiana Statehouse. They were as enamored of the beautiful building as we are! Undoubtedly one of their favorite parts was the candy I had squirreled away in a desk drawer. But a close runner up was easy access to the white board that hangs on my wall. After letting them each doodle for a few minutes, it was time to go. Yoseph and I were out the door, zipping coats and discussing dinner when I realized Tim and Ana were still in my office.

“Come on!” I called, somewhat impatiently. “We’re waiting.”

Ana emerged with a shy smile and Tim just shook his head.

“You’re going to cry on Monday,” Tim whispered. “She wrote you a note.”

And he was right.

Photo A

Ana’s Special Note 

Oh, Ana. I miss you already, too.

Photo B

And on a lighter note, Yoseph’s note to Molly Craft: “Be cool” 🙂

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We’re all God’s children

This week we started up morning devotions with the kids again. Just like in my personal life, sometimes I’m better about it than others. (Lately we’ve been using Jesus Today by Sarah Young)

The kids aren’t strangers to religion or discussions about faith. They attend Catholic school and when they’re with us, we attend a growing multi-ethnic evangelical church. So I was surprised when during one of the devotions for this week, a reference to being God’s children prompted Yoseph to interrupt Tim.

“Wait,” he said, gesturing at me and Tim. “You’re God’s child, too?”

“Yup!” I answered. “Just like I’m Mimi’s child, and Dad is Gammy’s child.”

“Oh!” he said to me. “Just like I’m your child! And Mommy’s and Daddy’s, too.”

I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat. “Yes, buddy. Just like that.”

Oh, Yoseph. I’m so glad you know that you belong to me and I to you.

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