March Favorites!

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Spring is here (finally!) and I couldn't be happier!

After a bit of a tumultuous winter, I'm excited to go into spring with an optimistic attitude and the promise of warm weather ahead!  And March is the start of all of it!

So what have I been loving this month?  Here we go...

Food & Drink

-The most simple lunch of all time - a chicken breast with all-purpose seasoning cooked in the oven for 45 minutes - has been a STAPLE this month.  It's a super, super simple lunch but it's filling and I'm such a creature of habit that I've loved having the consistency.

-OKAY I DON'T KNOW IF YOU GUYS KNOW THIS BUT YOU CAN BUY BOTTLES OF DUNKIN DONUTS ICED COFFEE NOW.  I've only tried the French Vanilla and Mocha flavors so far but they are DELIGHTFUL.  Please don't actually spend 60 bucks on amazon to try these - it was just the best link for the all of the flavors that I could find!  I've seen them in stores all over and, although they're a bit expense at around $3.00 a bottle, they're great as a special treat on the go!  Definitely recommended!

Clothes & Accessories

-I decided to give up buying anything (non-consumably, non-necessity, of course) this month for Lent, so I don't have any new clothing or accessories to share!

Home & Lifestyle

-This sounds so incredibly simple, but there's something I LOVE about good-smelling hand soaps. I love when the scent (lightly!) lingers and there are just some scents that I totally fall in love with, and Caldrea's Sea Salt Neroli is one of them.  (I actually personally use my Grove Collaborative account to purchase this brand - it's cheaper and I like the auto-purchase option!)  This soap is certainly more expensive than most, but for me it's one of those "little luxuries" that makes me super happy and is totally worth it! <3

This has nothing to do with soap, but COME ON.  Look at that little face <3 

Fun & Games

-We do game night every month with Chris' siblings and this month we played an awesome game that I've never played before - Mysterium!  It's a collaborative game (from the makers of Dixit, which is another awesome game I love!) and it's sort-of similar to Clue in that you are solving the "Who, What, & Where" of a murder.  Only in this game, the group works together and tries to decipher clues based on cards of artwork!   It was SUPER fun, relatively simple, and a game that I would gladly play again and again!  Highly recommended for anyone who likes games out there!

Christopher & Jessica

-It was Christopher's brithday this month (woohoo!  Happy b-day, handsome!) and he got some pretty awesome things from my family - including a sassy pair of pants and this really awesome deck of cards with our family's photo on it!!  So cute!  (Pretty sure the cards were from Shutterfly? We love them and as a game-playing family, they're just perfect!)

-Jess got a gift certificate for Christmas from one of her best friends, and this month I was able to take her to the mall to choose something to purchase!  She chose this hilarious Stranger Things t-shirt , and permitted me (hah!) to get one, too! (See pic above for us rockin' them during her school vacation week!)

Precious & Treasured

-As I mentioned before, Christopher's birthday was this month.  What I didn't mention, is that it was my sister-in-law Lee's birthday, too!  We had a joint celebration with the family and it was just an awesome time - I love spending time with everyone and a birthday's a great time to do it!  I'm really grateful that we all live close enough to celebrate events like this together. It's something I really treasure. <3

What about you?  What has been your favorite thing or experience from March?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

The Stepmom Club Series: Courtney!

Hey you guys!

I'm so excited to bring you the next installment of The Stepmom Club Series!

We are back today with Courtney, a stepmom of two and biological mom of one who's here to share her story today!  I especially love her "letter to herself" - so so true and beautiful!

(Would you like to be part of the project, too?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

And without further ado, here is Courtney's story...

-What is your name and general location?
My name is Courtney; I’m from the Southeast.

-How many stepchildren do you have?
I have two stepsons (ages 13 and 10) and a daughter together with my husband (7 years old).

-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?  
My husband and I got married almost 8 years ago when my stepsons were 3 and 6 years old. I was 28 years old at the time with no children. The boys were excited about the wedding and helped plan it with us.

Although my husband had emergency physical custody of the boys for about a year, their mom has recently gained primary physical custody after a long court battle, so now my husband has the boys 40% of the year. About 6 months after our wedding, I gave birth to our daughter together with us involving the boys in preparing for their sister.

-What does your stepchild call you?  If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
My stepsons call me Mutti, which is German for mom. Until my daughter was born, they just called me by my first name. But my oldest started calling me Mom after his sister was born and it bothered his mom, so my husband, the boys, and I came up with a new name for me. Our daughter calls me Mom or Mommy. Sometimes when her brothers are around, my daughter will occasionally call me Mutti.

-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)?  Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
I met my stepsons by going to Chuck E. Cheese with them and my partner. I met them there and we played games. We did a few “staycation” activities together throughout that week.

We really enjoyed each other and bonded pretty easily. There have been times where I have had difficult feelings around being a stepmom or when the boys have gone through phases where I felt further from them. When that happens, I usually try to figure out if something is going on in my own life that is bothering me, talk to my husband about how I am feeling, or find some time to spend one-on-one with whichever child I am feeling that way about. The longer we are married, the easier everything has been though. I can honestly say I love my stepsons like my own child.

-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?)  How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the child?
We handle discipline and rules for the boys in a similar fashion as we do for our daughter together. Both of us talk with the kids about concerns, and each of handles immediate consequences, like going to their room for a bit.

My husband has always treated me as an equal in determining rules and coming up with solutions for our family, and we make a great team in general. I think him showing me respect has made it easier for the boys to naturally respect both of us. We also confer with each other before committing to answers with the kids or make sure they have asked the other one.

Plus, I have developed relationships with the boys that are my own outside of their relationship with their dad and allowed them time alone with him as well. I think that has also impacted how they see me and their level of respect for me as another parental figure who cares for them.

-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner)  If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
I do participate in communication with my stepsons’ mom, but communication between the households is limited and primarily via email.

There was a time where I tried to form a working relationship with their mom, but there wasn't anything my husband or I could do to make that happen. Eventually, we decided that the healthiest thing for everyone was to practice parallel parenting, except when there were medical or educational items that needed some type of coordination or discussion (still primarily via email though).

However, there is some casual conversation in person at times at events or appointments for the kids. Many meetings now even happen separately at their mom’s request, though.

I maintain the limited relationship I have with her by having realistic expectations of her based on her actions to date, by thinking of her as “the boys’ mom” and referring to her that way when we have to talk about her, and by treating her as an acquaintance.

I also try to remember that everyone goes through things that their parents wish that they didn't have to go through. So, for my stepsons, I remind myself that I can’t influence what storms they encounter in their life. But I can make our home a shelter from those storms for them and my daughter.

-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the child (when the child is with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the child with you?
The longer we’ve been married, the less thought we have had to put into this.

In the beginning, we only did date nights when the boys were away and didn't do any family vacations without them.

But as our daughter got older, we thought of it as our small family (times with us 3) and our whole family (with the boys). We do some small vacations just the three of us. We normally plan couple things when it is only her still, like our annual anniversary trip as a couple.

Most of our large trips are with all five of us, but we also understand that they do things with their mom and with us. We also plan birthday parties for when the boys are here.

For the years where the boys are not with us for Christmas, then we do a Christmas with my daughter on Christmas morning and then a Christmas morning with the boys when they come for the second half of Winter Break. So, the boys get two Christmas mornings (one with their mom and one with us) and our daughter gets two Christmas mornings (Christmas Day and again with her brothers). We just buy her a few extra gifts those years.

-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
I have a few stepmothering memories of difficult times, and those were times where my stepsons were hurting because of the dynamics in their family. Big memories were around times their mom had said bad things to them about me or our family. I distinctly remember one time for each of my stepsons. In both instances, my stepson was hurting - so upset and confused by what their mom had said to them. As I was comforting them and assuring them that their mom loved them and didn't realize she was hurting them, I was hurting too. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and know that you can’t change the situation for them.

-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
One of my best stepmothering moments was when my stepsons came to the hospital to meet their sister. They were both so excited that she was here. I can still remember the smiles on their faces. And my oldest stepson teared up holding his sister - he was so proud. And I loved them even more in that moment than I did before.

-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
The forum Stepmothers on a Mission (SMOMS) and the calls and classes that the founder offered were a lifesaver for me as a stepmom dealing with a hostile bio-mom. I learned to use the difficult situations I encountered as opportunities to do some soul-searching and better myself. It also helped me find solutions to minor and major situations that worked well for our family.

-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time?  Please write a short version of that letter here.

Dear Courtney,

Congratulations on your wedding and welcome to your parenting journey. You are going to experience some of the greatest joys of your life and also deal with hard situations that you never imagined encountering.

Your journey as a stepmother will have you bawling on the floor over situations that you can’t change, questioning your decision to get into “this mess,” and leave you broken looking for answers. But, trust me, you will use these moments to make positive changes to yourself and to create a beautiful marriage and family.

Sometimes you will question yourself and wonder if you should have handled a situation differently. Let go of that; this journey will break you of your life-long habit of questioning yourself. Trust your instincts as a mom and stepmom, look at situations with eyes of love from multiple people’s viewpoints, and enjoy your marriage regardless of whatever drama may be brewing at the moment.

You will not be perfect, and that’s okay. We aren't trying to show our kids how to be perfect, but instead how to be imperfect. And you will get to be good at it - ask questions rather than assuming, apologize if you’ve messed up, and let your husband and kids love you unconditionally.

This will be an amazing journey for you. Enjoy all it, even the hard stuff. The wonderful things are only fully possible with the tough conversations and soul-searching.

With lots of love,
You, eight years down the road

-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
I wouldn't use the word jealous, but sometimes I do wish that they were my biological children. Life would be a lot easier - we would be able to raise them without influence of a parent with a different perspective from us, activities and schools would all be close to our home, and it feels like things would be less hectic.

When I feel that way, I remind myself that I adore my boys exactly as they are and part of who they are comes from their mom and her side of the family.

-What do you say when people ask if you have kids? (if you’re a stepmom with no biological children)
When I become a stepmom, I wasn't a biological mom. When asked, I would say that I have two sons from my husband’s previous marriage. Now, when I am asked about whether I have kids or how many kids I have, I say that I have 3 kids - one daughter and two stepsons (or two sons from my husband’s previous marriage). From experience, I know my stepsons typically prefer “son from my husband’s previous marriage” over “stepson.”

-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
We just roll with it. If the boys correct the person, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s fine too. When we first got married, they corrected people often. But they typically don’t correct people now.

-How are you preparing for when the child might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
The best advice I have heard about this is to just acknowledge that it is true. Instead of giving a reaction to them saying it or getting off topic of the conversation, just simply saying “Yes, I know” and continuing the other conversation that needs to be had.

-Was your now partner having a child or children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
Honestly, I don’t think it was a pro or con. I did love what a wonderful and involved father he was (and continues to be), but I didn't view the children as a pro or con. His having children was another part of who he was and would be a part of our life together.

-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
There have been times when my answer to this question would have been “I don’t know.” But for the last few years, I have had no doubt that I would do it all again.

The trick for us has been to put our marriage first. That doesn't mean that we aren't running around in all directions sometimes for our kids or that we don’t weigh decisions thinking of their best interest. But, their best interest is for my husband and I to have a great marriage and for them to have a stable home. The boys don’t need to go through another divorce, and I don’t want my daughter having to go between two homes. Plus, we are modeling for them how to treat their future spouse and what to expect in their marriages.

My husband and I take time together when we can and go on a yearly anniversary trip together without any kids. We discuss decisions that affect our family and support each other in our interests.  I think having that strong marriage as a base for our family has made it easier to be a stepmom and to fully bond with my stepsons.

Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering:
  1. I love to sing. I sing with my husband’s band at many of their shows and has my own female 3-piece band for awhile.
  2. I’m dabbling in family photography. In high school I did yearbook photography and I have done some portraits for family and friends. Right now, I have been doing free or cheap photos for people I know to build up my portfolio, in case I want to do it professionally later. I have a Facebook page and instagram account under: Courtney Rasey Photography.
  3. I have completed 3 half marathons. In November, I’m scheduled to run/walk my first full marathon.
Find Courtney online here:

Thank you for sharing with us today, Courtney!  It was great to read your story!

Did you like reading Courtney's interview?  Want to read more in this series?  Check them all out here!

(Don't forget that if you're interested in sharing your own stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

Thanks my friends <3   See you Wednesday!

In Defense of the "Stereotypical" Wedding

First, please look at this meme from Middle Class Fancy on facebook:

Next, guess which of these things I had at my wedding.

If your answer was "All of the Above" you are 100% correct.  Add some blush pink, a candy bar, and a bunch of chalkboards and this could be my wedding blueprint.

Just to clarify, I thought this meme was funny because it is so accurate.  Those things have been wedding trends for a few years now and it seems like they're all over the place, so before I get a bunch of comments saying that I have no sense of humor, don't worry, you guys, I do.  I literally laughed out loud when I saw it.

But it also made me think.  Made me think about the notion of "stereotypical" weddings, and the super high-pressure that couples, especially brides if we're being honest, are put under to make their weddings unique and timeless.

My wedding was in a barn decorated with Christmas lights. My bridesmaids wore short pink dresses and held baby's breath bouquets.  It was beautiful and sentimental and gorgeous, and almost none of it was "timeless."  Literally all of the things I just listed were HUGE wedding trends at the time.  And you know what?  I saw them and I loved them and so we had them at our wedding.

It was very me and very Christopher, but I don't think much of our day was shocking or surprising, and it certainly utilized many popular wedding choices for 2015.  On purpose.  And you know what?  I'm happy about that.

I want to look back at my pictures and be able to instantly tell what year it is.  To see the trends and choices and know that it fully reflected our tastes at that time.  It's FUN to look back at my parents' photos and see the big hair and the bright suits and know that this is a photo from another time.  And those things were "stereotypical," then, too.  But (most importantly!) those choices suited my parents and they loved their wedding and each other and that's what matters.

I am well aware that the "Barn Wedding" trend is going to go out of style.  Maybe it already has, I don't know.  But I am stupidly happy that our wedding reflected our preferences and what we liked about weddings at the time.

I guess I want to implore anyone who's wedding planning to give themselves a little break on trying to avoid "the trends."  If you love something, go for it!  If something from the "stereotypical" wedding (whatever that may be at the time!) calls to you, then that's what you should have!  If you want to do something unique, definitely do it, but if you LOVE lace, don't avoid it because you know it's something "everyone is doing right now."  Who cares?!  This is your wedding, my friend.  And everyone is NOT getting married that day - you are!  Make sure your wedding reflects you and what you love, and don't worry too much about creating a "timeless" day.

Someday I may think it's hilarious that we had mason jar flower arrangements at our wedding, but I don't think so.  I think it's much more likely that I'll look back and see a day that was perfect for us at the time.  Perfectly the two of us, and also perfectly - and yes, stereotypically - 2015.  

And you know what?  I'm totally okay with that.
All photos by the unbelievable Laura Marie Duncan (We love her!)
Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

1.5 Years Married

As of March 5th, Christopher and I have been married for a year and a half now.

And it has been an 18 months chock full, my friends.

We have had many positive experiences like our #SavageSecondHoneymoon vacation, probably more shows than I can even try to remember, and many many personal jokes, way-too-loud car sing-alongs, and Netflix marathons of our favorite shows.

But you know what else?  These past months were certainly not devoid of difficult decision-making, disagreements big and small, and quite a few tears along the way, as well.

Overall, though?  We have an amazing time.  We laugh every day.  We say "sorry," both of us.  A lot.

I said this in my post about a year ago, but marriage changes things.  Marriage doesn't change people, but marriage somehow changes things.  I'm not sure why, but it does.

We give each other more grace.  We take each other more seriously.  And you know what?  I think we laugh more, too.

I have changed so much since that gorgeous day in September, and I'm even more grateful for Christopher now than ever.

I don't know where else our lives and marriage will take us, but I can tell you one thing for sure: there will be many laughs and some VERY loud showtune sing-offs along the way. <3

To my 12-year-old on International Women's Day

Dear Jessica,

Today is International Women's Day, and this has made me think a lot about our world and what's important to teach you as you grow up in it.

The world is teaching you that your value is in your appearance.  The world is teaching you that your male classmates come first.  The world is teaching you that someone else should be in control of what you look like and how you behave and who you love.

And I'm just not okay with that.

I want to teach you that you can look like whatever you want to look like, and that this decision is up to you and you alone.  That your presentation choices do not change your value as a person.

I want to teach you that you and your friends, male or female, all deserve equal opportunities in the workplace and in the world.  That your gender should not affect your salary.

I want to teach you to be strong when you want to be strong and gentle when you want to be gentle and to never be confused about the fact that you can and should be both.

I want to teach you that being a woman is an awesome thing.  A beautiful thing.  A bold, strong, amazing thing that requires no apologies.

I want to teach you that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman.  You can dress girly or masculine.  You can like flowers or football.  You can stay home with babies or work 40 hour weeks or bake cookies or govern countries and no single one of these things will make you more or less a woman.

I know that, right now, this world is confusing.  It doesn't yet know your worth.  It doesn't yet see you like I see you and like God sees you - for everything you are and everything you will be.

But I want you to know that you are surrounded by amazing women who are fighting for you and for your future.  We are fighting for your right to do and say and be whoever you want to be.

And I will always be here, standing with you and fighting for you.

Because you, my dear, and all the other girls out there, are now and always will be worth fighting for.