As a young adult and an only child, Amy was thrilled to have two new younger brothers. She has doted on them from Day One. Truly, I think they can do no wrong in her eyes.
And Nate and Jorge - well, suffice it to say that they were more than just a little enamored of their new big sis. At 10 and 11 years old, they loved her unconditionally and completely.
Even so, as Mike and I blended our families we were faced with a lot of unknowns, and knew that we were in tricky territory. We approached it the only way we knew how - on our knees. While we had made the decision to have and to hold, to love and to honor, we knew we could place no such expectations upon our children and upon their relationship with one another and with us, as step-parents.
While there have certainly been the ordinary trials and tribulations of parenting teens, I know we've been blessed. As I joined the Wilder family, Amy had no need for another mother and I never tried to be that maternal figure in her life. Instead, we very quickly settled into a friendship that is deep, loving, and enduring. I am one of her confidants and feel honored each time she shares with me. She is an amazing woman who has since married an equally amazing guy and is mother to the two little lights in my life - Carter and Kendall.
Nate and Jorge have spent the entirety of their teen years with some excellent role models - their sister and her husband. It has been such a privilege as a woman to sit back and watch these relationships develop and mature as the years have peeled away. They have observed Paul and Amy graduating from college, marrying, and striving to achieve their personal goals and dreams. I love to listen as Paul interacts with the boys - he has a talent for drawing them out in conversation, and I know that this is because of the immense respect they have for him.
So here we are - years later - with Amy grown, married, and the mother of two toddlers. Nate is nineteen and Jorge is eighteen. Our family is once again in transition mode - this time this change of life is bringing Mike and I frightening (or is it gloriously?) close to the Empty Nest Stage as both boys will be living away from home on collge campuses come fall.
Because of this and also just because we love them and think the world of all of them, MIke and I decided last summer to take the entire family on vacation this year. In the morning, all eight of us will be on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Florida for one fun-filled, exciting week at Disney, at Cocoa Beach, and anywhere else in the area our kiddos decide they need to see.
While I am so looking forward to seeing the Magic Kingdom through Carter and Kendall's eyes, and while - like Nate - I'm anxious to relax beachside with a great book and plenty of sunscreen, I must say that what thrills me most is the fact that for the first time ever OUR FAMILY will be spending nights together underneath ONE roof.
We have rented a 4-bedroom, 3-bath vacation pool home that will be our home-away-from-home for the next seven days. I can hardly wait for the sound of our three children as they talk, laugh, and share this very special time in our blended family history.
Life often throws us curve balls and presents us with scenarios that change and morph almost as often as we change our clothes. And yet - for THIS time - for THESE precious days ahead of me, I intend to do nothing except absorb the love that binds this unit together. The kids have grown and developed and changed as the years have gone by, but one thing has remained the same.
Mike and I still approach this blended family the same way we have since Day One. On our knees.
And as I finish my packing in the next few minutes and retire for the night in anticipation of an early rising, my heart is overflowing with gratitude to my God for blessing me with these marvelous people.
The people I call FAMILY.