Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kitchen Wars--Crash!

I'm sitting at the kitchen table in the new house & I gotta say--this ain't no merge, it's a full-grown, head-on crash! Difficult to be sure & frustrating too, but I know this is just the beginning.  When we finally got everyone's stuff into the house on Saturday, all I wanted to do was to get the kitchen done & by done I mean functional. I looked around at all of the boxes & sighed, or was it cried?  It was just too much!!  Where would this item get stored?  The 3 sets of plates, cups & bowls--whose to use?  And what about the pasta?  OMG!  The pasta has multiplied like rabbits!!  Not sure how much spaghetti one family needs but apparently this one could open up a pasta specialty store!  I think I know what we'll be eating for the next six months!  Ok, I exaggerate.  Or not. It's a big kitchen but we're coming to find out that similar to our family dynamic, it is difficult to navigate & easily place things where we are satisfied that it works.  I suppose that will all come in time but right now I must cook pasta.  ARGH!

My next goal is to try to get the common spaces done--like the living room, family room & den.  The den will require getting the storage room/wine cellar done first so that the million cases of wine are safely stored & not in the middle of the room--I think I have an uphill battle in front of me because tomorrow is sailing, Thursday & Friday evenings appear to be booked as well--Friday we have symphony tickets & it was supposed to be the four of us: Xing Fu, myself, my son & his youngest daughter but now she has a lacrosse tournament & cannot. I am disappointed because I thought that we'd have a nice family activity to do together as we've merged each of our families together in one house--good bonding experience but alas, it is not to be.  Good thing my son's best friend will come so that the ticket won't go to waste.  Also, he'll then stay at the house for the first time--my son finally has room to invite his friends over--that is a very good thing! 

But the crazy begins--lacrosse games all weekend for his daughter & apparently no time to devote to getting this house worked on.  This is where I struggle--for so many years I've had to juggle my kid's activities & other priorities.  In fact, just recently I had to miss his crew regatta because of the move--that totally sucked because I really wanted to go--but the priority was our move. In the past, I have had to call in the assistance of my folks & my son's friends' parents on occasion to take him various places when I had other demands that required my attention.  And sometimes, when he was still living in the area, my ex. This is my struggle: I feel like our priorities become secondary or tertiary as a result of Xing Fu's tunnel vision regarding his daughters--what needs to be a focus for all of us is swept to the side for him & I feel like I'm still expected to unpack, do the laundry, & cook dinner for everyone.  That is my perception & perhaps it is not entirely accurate, but that is how I felt this weekend when his daughter was over & everything stopped for the good of all & became only for the good of his. Sure, getting her room set up was a priority, but the rest of it, not so much.  As a result, I did the laundry, unpacked & organized most of the kitchen, repacked the extra dishes that we decided not to use, & then cooked dinner.  If this is my future, I guess I'm struggling a bit.  And case in point, what did I do again today when I got home from work?  Prepped & cooked dinner--essentially all Xing Fu & his daughter really had to do was walk in the house & sit at the table. Xing Fu did help a bit but again, he was distracted to the point of being a hindrance & not a help by his kid--I've read the advice column about blending families & I know that this is a common theme--but it is happening to me & it is problematic. Interesting point that Xing Fu's middle child once told me.  She had a Chinese exchange student for 6 weeks & the girl was very confused by the family dynamics.  She said that in China people don't get divorced they just stay unhappy. Not how I choose to live my life anymore. I want this to work, but I guess we have a few kinks to straighten out so that this house gets put together & we have a home that our family (his & mine) can thrive in.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Caution: Merge ahead

Our move is only 3 days away & we've all been crammed into Xing Fu's smallish condo since last Saturday--tensions are bound to crop up as we try to figure all of this out.  It is a very good thing that we're going to move to a completely new space together when we merge our families--no one has territorial connections & we have to all start from scratch.  Because while we're living at Xing Fu's we're not in our own space & boy can I tell you about territorialism! This past weekend, Xing Fu's children's little dog (about the size of our cat), came to the condo with the girls.  This is what ensued:

 My cat flipped out!  I think we made a tactical error by having the dog here in such a smallish space.  The poor cat hid for most of the weekend & still is off his feed.  Poor cat--we've managed to rock his little world twice in the space of one week--he never knew what hit him....

I think my son & I are grieving a little bit for our house.  I think for different reasons but we're grieving nonetheless. I think that's one thing going through my kid's head--this just ain't his space.  Plus he's no longer an "only" child.  Now he'll be third of four.  Instant siblings!  And, for quite a few years now, it's only been him & me--no other adult to have to contend with--that's gotta rock someone's world to be sure! All this thrust upon him plus moving has got to be tough--I'm just trying to normalize it for him.  But he is feeling it acutely. As a result, I've been doing a little research on blended families & this is what I came up with from Helpguide.org & the authors:Gina Kemp, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson. :
  • Changes in family relationships. If both parents remarry partners with existing families, it can mean children suddenly find themselves with different roles in two blended families. For example, one child may be the eldest in one stepfamily but the youngest in the other. Blending families may also mean one child loses his or her uniqueness as the only boy or girl in the family.
  • Difficulty in accepting a new parent. If children have spent a long time in a one-parent family, or if children still nurture hopes of reconciling their parents, it may be difficult for them to accept a new person.
  • Coping with demands of others. In blended families planning family events can get complicated, especially when there are custody considerations to take into account. Children may grow frustrated that vacations, parties, or weekend trips now require complicated arrangements to include their new stepsiblings.
Wow, seems to me that there is a piece of each of these issues right now for us--awareness is half the battle, I suppose.  And the answers--well certainly not easy, but eventually I think doable if everyone is committed to making it work. I think the foremost response is open communication & building trust.  The authors have this to say with regard to that:

The way a blended family communicates says a lot about the level of trust between family members. When communication is clear, open, and frequent, there are fewer opportunities for misunderstanding and more possibilities for connection, whether it is between parent and child, step-parent and stepchild, or between stepsiblings.
Uncertainty and worry about family issues often comes from poor communication. It might be helpful to set up some ‘house rules’ for communication within a blended family, such as:
  • Listen respectfully to one another.
  • Address conflict positively.
  • Establish an open and nonjudgmental atmosphere.
  • Do things together – games, sports, activities.
  • Show affection to one another comfortably.
And finally, "create family rituals & establish routines. Decide on meaningful family rituals and plan to incorporate at least one into your blended family. They might include Sunday visits to the beach, a weekly game night, or special ways to celebrate a family birthday. Establishing regular family meals, for example, offers a great chance for you to talk and bond with your children and stepchildren as well as encourage healthy eating habits."  We've been doing family meals for about a year now--every Sunday that Xing Fu has his children, we've come over or they've come to our house for dinner.  I think it has helped us a great deal to have that ritual & I certainly hope that it continues into the future.  So we seem to be on the right track in many ways but it will be an uphill climb that will be a challenge for everyone involved.  

Strange to look back on this blog history & see how much has changed for all of us in the 2 1/2 years we've been together--it's been worth it!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trash Car

Ah, moving day!  On Monday the movers came & packed up my house into their truck.  It was pouring down rain & oh, boy!  What a mess!  And the buyers (now owners) were doing their walk-through at six that evening.  A couple important points about all of this:  Mondays are recycling day & Fridays are trash day.  So after the movers picked up everything, I took a lil' look around--  

"On their walls, he left nothing but hooks and some wire. And the one speck of food that he left in the house was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse."  --How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss   

That was what the house looked like after the movers cleaned it out--I did find a couple of things--a piece of particle board, two soccer balls, & a floor length mirror out of a frame.  Yup, pretty empty.  Oops!  I also had a cactus plant that refused to die from when I lived in an apartment in 2001 & the wreath from the front door.  But, oh the mess!  The dust bunnies, & god-only-knows-what on the floor of my son's room....GACK!   And the appliances needed cleaning--not sure the inside of the washer ever received a proper washing itself when I discovered & scrubbed out the crud that collected around the underside of the drum.  Plus the fridge & freezer.  So I swept, and scrubbed, scrubbed & swept so that at least when these folks moved in (found out not until June 1), the place would be free of grime & yuck.  And I collected all of the nasty into garbage bags, old plastic bins, & an old recycle trash can & placed it all out by the street for trash collection on Friday.  Remember folks--it was pouring down rain, & it was Monday when I moved out....sooooooo.....

What to do with the trash?  Can't just leave it til Friday...who wants to move into a new house & see the old owner's trash by the curb?  What to do???  And where to dump this huge mound of watery trash?  I called Xing Fu to see if he could help me & suggest a place to dump the trash.  He couldn't help (middle of the day, at work, you know the drill) but suggested that I put the trash in my car & take it to his place & put it in the "trash corral" at his condo.  OK--here's a picture for y'all--me soaked to the bone carrying these bags, (and oddly, wooden stakes--so NOT going vampire hunting--I have no clue where they came from) bins, & old trash cans & putting them in my car--a '04 Hyundai Sante Fe.  Don't forget the pouring rain....I drove over to the condo, pulled up to the "corral" & opened one of the doors to the car.  Oh, did I mention that it was pouring down rain?  And the old trash can flipped out of the car & landed upside down in the middle of the parking lot! YUCK-O!  A guy was out walking his dogs & offered to help--I happily took him up on the offer & he & my drowned-rat self wrestled all the trash into the "corral'--wooden stakes & all.  Disaster averted--trash contained--yippee!

The next day I blissfully went to my car thinking that all was well with the world before the settlement & opened the door to drive to the bank.  OH MY FREAKIN' GOD!!  The stench was ginormously overwhelming!  It is the Trash Car--even the air freshener from Yankee Candle Co., couldn't handle the smell.  It permeated the car & for a while after I got into my office on Wednesday, I thought it was stuck to my skin too.  ICK!  All week I have been driving around with the windows open & leaving them open during the day in the hopes that trash car will air out.  And I think, mebbe finally, trash car is less odiferous--wet garbage--BLEH!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Howl's Moving Castle
The deed is done.  My house ain't mine.  And now, I have nowhere to run if things don't work out--Kinda too late now....deja vu....and off we go to live with Xing Fu for 10 days.  The next great adventure.  Strange to not "go home."  For as much as Xing Fu would like us (my son & me) to feel free to be "at home", we don't. It's not his fault, he isn't doing anything wrong, it's just not our home & we feel it acutely.  I'm sure the new house will feel that way for all of us for a while. But it's the subtle things that you can't quite put your finger on...like wanting to watch TV but feeling like mebbe you shouldn't because no one else wants to watch what you do, no DVR to record the shows that you want, or that you're living out of a bag. I joke a little about being "homeless"--it is no joke if you are, but I do think that we have a sense of what that must be like. It isn't the most comfortable feeling even if we're shacked up with my boyfriend & we do have a destination & know where our next meal is coming from (don't get me started about shared grocery bills--another time, another blog post). 

I also know that it is a huge adjustment for EVERYBODY.  Xing Fu's kids need to be cognizant of us being there all the time when before we could be taken in smaller doses if they wanted.  And the same could be said for us--there's no place to hide. And we're trying to figure out how to do this together with our joined families--I keep saying to Xing Fu that I don't want us to live in the new house as two separate families living together but as one big extended bonus family.  That is my hope & my fear.  So while this is the next great adventure ( & I truly feel that it is), we are all concerned about the minutiae of daily living.  Food, laundry, neatness (my son & I may be a little less concerned about everything being put away), drinking glasses being left everywhere (my big pet peeve) & who takes care of this stuff....the following is something I found on yahoo about blending finances when you move in together:

Money Mistake #6: You Fell in Love

Love can cause money problems--but not the ones you might expect. Most individuals have an internal financial math that makes their budget work: They cheap out on the things they don't care about and splurge on things they value. For instance, you may be perfectly happy to keep your grocery bills low by eating cereal eight times a week so you can splash out on clothing. Then you fall in love with a guy who lives in blue jeans and flip-flops but would never eat day-old bread. It's easy to start sharing each other's pleasures, but hard to give up our own. So you take his wardrobe up a notch, and he buys truffle salt at the grocery store...and as a couple, you pile on the new expenses while abandoning your former budgeting strategies.

Solution: Asking partners to stop doing the things that make them happy is a great way to build resentment and encourage financial infidelity. So instead, start with the fun stuff: Come up with a list of what you both value most and together build a budget that will help you achieve those goals. During that process, you'll each have to make sacrifices, but it won't feel as if your partner is living it up while you are being denied.

The statement in bolded red is the biggest takeaway from this piece of advice. It is very true--I think Xing Fu & I have brushed up against this already--I value cooking with high end ingredients & good wine far more than he does & this could be a potential pitfall--so we need to figure out how to make it work for us--and I know that we're committed to doing just that.  But being without my home is still very strange.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Next Step

It's here.  What we've been planning for about a year.  I am sitting in my house for the last time listening to the packers from Von Paris packing my kitchen.  We've put a serious dent in what they need to pack (to cut down on cost) but the kitchen in my opinion, was the hardest to do, so I left it to them.  How strange to be at this point--last night saying things like, "this is the last supper we'll have together in this house", or "the last time we shower in this house", or "sleep here".  Here's where nostalgia kicks in--so many years, so many memories: laughter, tears, heartache, joy--this house has watched my son grow into a young man, watched the 50 first's come & go, and then watched my relationship with Xing Fu grow right out of this space.  My wish for the young couple who are buying this house is that it protects them as well as it did us & that they begin their lives in a house that has kept us safe for 11 years, filling it with their happy, family noises.

I look around at all of the memories stacked about & sniff a little--Xing Fu said to me this morning, "Are we sure we want to do this?"  My response was, "Little late now."  But in answer, yes, I want to do this.  Yes, there are insecurities about the future (we've both been hurt, burned, etc.), but our outlook is bright--literally sailing off into the sunset together. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wednesday Night!

WooHoo!  It's back! Wednesday Night Racing in Annapolis! And I am so psyched for a new season.  I'm on a new boat with a new skipper (very experienced sailor), new crew, & new position.  All of us have sailed & raced fairly extensively & it looks to be a good mix of folk.  Even more exciting for me is the opportunity to be on main.  It makes me more valuable as a crew member in that I have the ability to pretty much slip in wherever needed (my Wednesday night ride doesn't do weekend regattas). Since I don't have a designated boat for the weekend regattas yet, I have to find boats who need crew.  Unfortunately Xing Fu & I missed the Crew Listings Party from Spin Sheet last week because my son was in a crew (rowing) regatta in Chestertown. Excited for him to be participating in a great sport that I did competitively in college, but bummed that I couldn't meet skippers looking for crew for sailing in weekend regattas. 

 But with two races down so far, I'm so happy to be out there learning a new sail.  Just hope I can figure it out eventually--and I hope the skipper has patience.  The season is young....