Beautifully BLENDED

Since I met Joel and started sharing some of our family life with y’all, many of you have commented about being a part of blended families OR potentially being a part of one in the future. After being asked the same questions over and over, I thought it’d be easiest to answer in a blog post! I am not a professional by any means; I’m only commenting from personal experience. And maybe I learned a thing or two from Jerry McGuire. Ha! #sorrynotsorry Or from my big beautifully blended family on The Bold and the Beautiful (now that is BLENDED). Wink, wink. 

Disneyland Day

Disneyland Day

Before I dig in, the term “blended family” has never sat well with me. I have images of a blender slicing things. Can we come up with a better term? PLEASE?

The question I get asked the most: What would I tell someone who is interested in seriously dating an individual with children.

I wouldn’t tell them anything, but I would ask them a few questions. Blended families are beautiful blessings when you you are ready for that responsibility. Again, I’ve learned from trial and error. I’m just trying to be the best wife, mom and step-mom I can, but miss the mark sometimes.

1) Do you enjoy long talks about poop, math quizzes or soccer goals? 

In other words: are you ready to be a mature, parental figure that puts the kids first (because they did not ask for this)? You will not be newly weds in the traditional sense. You don’t get that alone time in the beginning like two single people getting married. You are an instafamily. And an instaparent of sorts. Ready for that? (I wrote about the instant changes that occur in my column for PEOPLE here.)

2) Are you ready to make comprises, keep your promises and plan ahead?

Kids take planning. There are no “ let’s jump on a plane to Mexico for the weekend” (unless it’s not their weekend with the kids, but single parents are tired! Their spontaneity may have wained considerably). Also, if you make a date with a single parent on their custodial time, KEEP IT. Don’t flake. They may have moved mountains to get a babysitter. 

3) How serious are you about this individual? 

If the relationship is ready for a serious commitment, it’s may be time to involve the children. Children need stability, though, so if you’re one foot in— do not meet the kids.

4) Do you understand the “package deal?”

The most important thing to remember is they are a package together. The chid/children were there before you and will always be the priority. It’s extremely important to make time for each other, but it’s harder. You have to be flexible.

The other thing to remember is that part of the package is the ex-spouse/partner. If they are still in the picture, they will be a part of your life, good or bad. I am learning for most blended families, it’s an adjustment that takes time. And if you think the ex-partner will not affect your life in some fashion, that’s not true (at least not in my experience or most people I know). So, try and keep that relationship with the ex as positive as possible with open communication. When both parties cannot agree about what is best for their child, the law and lawyers get involved. Lemme tell you, this is not fun, but it IS expensive and often unfair. (I could write another blog post about this).

5) Do you like to DANCE?

The exchanges going back and forth with the two families, figuring out schedules and holidays and vacations— it’s not always easy, patience, sacrifice and compromise go a long way. Consider if you are ready for that juggle.  If you notice, Huck isn’t always able to be with us. We share him. So, when we want to do family activities, I coordinate around many factors. To be honest, it’s a really pain in the bum sometimes. I just wrote out a series of examples, then deleted it because this isn’t about my laundry list, it’s about YOU. 

6) Do you like being second fiddle? 

I am a stepmom and a mom. I don’t like the there is a distinction, but I can appreciate it. The only part of our family that technically makes us “blended” is Huck. And Huck already has a mother. I will never take that place in his life, but I can be a “bonus mom,” another parental figure in his life. And occasionally, my husband’s focus is on handling situations with his first son and ex-wife.

7) Can you rule without an iron fist?

With my son and stepson at the happiest place on Earth. We coordinate family weekends based on our time with Huck.

With my son and stepson at the happiest place on Earth. We coordinate family weekends based on our time with Huck.

Someone once told me that rules without relationship cause rebellion. In my situation, I met Huck when he was 2. His father did the majority of disciplining. Over time, we developed our own relationship. One that is familial and maternal and rewarding. Now, we have rules and structure, but I had to earn that over time.

If you or someone you love is considering making life decisions that involve children, these are points to consider from my personal experience. (Not sure how this turned into a PSA! ha!) They are basic concepts, just a sounding board to get a conversation flowing. Because you’ll be doing a LOT OF COMMUNICATING. 

It’s almost impossible to comprehend all of this when you are dating, but if you’ve met someone and started falling for them (and the child), it can be your fairytale. You’ll have the opportunity to love and affect another little human positively. I promise the little munchkin (or big munchkin) will be a blessing in your life and just might make YOU a better person. But the greatest thing to remember is there is no “right way,” there is only the right way for you. Be smart, listen to your gut instincts, follow your heart and remember the power of FORGIVENESS.

I’ve appreciated reading your notes about being from blended families. What I treasure most are hearing your thoughts about being a stepmother yourselves, or remembering moments from your own step parents. I wanted to open that discussion up here, too. I LOVE LEARNING FROM YOU.. So, feel free to share your beautiful blended stories. 

xoxo

AAJ

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forget Partying at the Oscars, we're all about: PARTY AT THE POTTY

Our first attempt at potty training at 19mo did not go over well.

Our first attempt at potty training at 19mo did not go over well.

PARTY AT THE POTTY

If you follow me on social media, you know I’m in the middle of potty training Hayden. 

Hayden’s pediatrician believes we need to work on weaning diapers before I try to wean the thumb sucking (that’s a polarizing topic for another day). I thought there was a good chance I’d be working on set on a show this week, so when that didn’t pan out, I had a few free days. Hayden seemed to understand what I was talking to him about (I know, he’s TWO, but he really did seem to get it). So one full day we discussed it, then off went the diapers the next day.

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I must say I was dreading potty training, but maybe since I expected the worst, it’s not as bad? I tell you one thing- I’m over diapers!! For all you parents out there about to start the process, I feel for you, but just go for it IF YOU FEEL your child is ready. I tried potty training Hayden at 19 mo. and he was NOT ready. His imagination came alive, creating many other uses for the potty other than the intended one (see photo above!). I’m weary to say much just yet because we are only on day 3. So, what I will discuss is preparation

Here goes:

I did nearly nothing. Ha! We read some books on the topic at night on and off recently. Not books for me, books with stick figures that talk about walking to the potty and sitting down on the potty, etc. I talked to my friend Willa Ford @wfordinteriors that went through this process before me and she recommended some products that I highly suggest using! So, I spent about 5 minutes amazoning the below. I’ll link them. I bought them all!

I’m grateful Willa gave me her list! I would have NEVER thought of the “piddle pad” for the car seat until it was too late and been super frustrated trying to clean it! Trips anywhere we don’t want to carry a potty with us, these portable silicone fold up seat covers with liners are genius. My biggest thing is not letting Hayden touch anything. This basic POTTY book really helps them understand what is happening. And I ordered the padded undies because they will catch the initial dribbles! The thin one that come in packs of 10 will NOT do that. And finally, I’m keeping the travel potty in the car. I have one at home that is simple, but this one had a COVER LID if we need to hold off on dumping for a moment.

Potty training must be one of those things that is hard to recall once it’s all over and time has passed. I met Huck when he was about Hayden’s age. We went through potty training together. I helped implement “no more diapers.” We used pull ups for a short period at night, then big boy underwear. I remember moments of the process, having to rush home after accidents, Huck holding my neck as he pooped in the potty for the first time telling me he was scared. But, over all, I don’t remember that much. Is it human nature to selectively forget the hard parts or we would never want to do it again?? I can’t imagine that time was a super easy process for any of us, especially Huck, because he was going back and forth between his mom and his dad. But, he adjusted, as kids do.

I know there are books on the subject that outline it all. I skimmed the jist of them on google and just went for it. Lemme tell you one thing I quickly noticed: there are two schools of thought.

1) Never put the diaper back on them again. Even for naps or nighttime.

2) Put the diaper on them for sleeping or traveling distances. 

I chose the latter.

For now, it’s all “party at the potty!” ha! We’re handing out little mini prizes and limiting the sweet treats as much as possible. Stay tuned for how it goes. Do you remember potty training your child? Or are you thinking about starting??

Please please share any ideas, tips and tricks. One of you (I don’t share names without asking first) shared Brandi Bruck’s Potty Training in 3 Days. I may order that book! Thanks for those of you that are so encouraging of this process!! #MYtribe is awesome.

xo

AJH


SINCE I POSTED THIS, OTHER ISSUES HAVE COME IN TO PLAY. CONSTIPATION WAS MY BIGGEST CONCERN.

UPDATE 2/24/19 10am

While many I know were at Oscar parties last night, we were home partying at the potty! I got concerned that Hayden had not pooped. Now, it’s been over 2 days. Who has dealt with potty training constipation? I’m googling and it can quickly turn into an alarming situation. I’m feeding him more foods that might help that issue right now. I’m reading I might need to give prune juice. He is peeing in the toilet every time, but clearly holding the poop for one reason or another. Is anyone else dealing with this or have you recently?

Also, I am so grateful and overwhelmed at everyone’s comments on DM, but I would rather us all share here where others can benefit from your wisdom. I know it’s frustrating to have to sign into squarespace before you leave a comment, but it’s pretty easy- give a name and an email. The email is not for my purposes, but squarespace security. (Honestly, you could probably make one up…not sure, but it is not connected to my website, so I will never know). We only see addresses if you voluntarily sign up for newsletters (which we are working on finally accomplishing!). All that to say—- PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT so others can benefit;)

I’ll be leaving updates here of anything that works for us. For those of you that are just now tuning in and are questioning potty training, the main thing I’ve learned so far is that YOU have to be more ready to do this than your child. It’s really TRAINING THE PARENTS.

UPDATE: 2/24/19 10pm

Ok, I got so preoccupied with stuff- sorry for the delay here. Thank for those of you checking on us! He ate a lot and had quite a few apple slices. Nothing was happening and it had been 2 days. I read a great deal online and got concerned. I didn’t want to develop contipation issues. At 4pm, I rubbed a bit of vaseline back there with Joel helping me hold Hayden (tiny bit, on the outside). He finally started pooping around 5pm (cried a tiny bit). I said he could poop anywhere he wanted - in a diaper, in his (padded) big boy undies or in the potty whenever he wanted to. He started to go in his undies, then I gently took him to his little potty. He finished there and was very excited to show daddy and flush it. He continued to go in the potty (pee) the rest of the night ( 2 more times). One of you mentioned that I should explain he is a big boy and he can come tell Mommy or Daddy when he needs to go to the bathroom. I tried that and it did work with pee, but I still reminded him he could go potty every hour. I put a diaper on him for bed tonight.

UPDATE: 2/25/19 10:16 pm

I’m so tired. This gets draining. I do believe this will help others, so that’s why this is so detailed.

I’ll start by saying he waited till 4pm to pee AT ALL today (even with a ton of food and water and milk in him). He just kept saying he didn’t need to potty. At nap time, I put a diaper on him and it was bone dry when he woke up. I’m less concerned today, but still went to the store to get some raisins and more apples. He ate them. Finally at 4pm, he went. He waited till 5p to poop. He started in his big boy pants, then I lured him over to the potty with the promise of a little toy car. He was so excited to flush it, he forgot about the toy. I brought it up anyway and praised him.

NOTE: I am SO happy with these slightly padded undies I wrote about below. I wasn’t sure if they would work, but he loves to put them on and feels very comfortable in them. If he starts to go, it doesn’t soak up like a diaper, so he is aware, but it also doesn’t leak immediately. We have 4 pairs (one pack). I got a 3T, which are perfect for him.



Hayden much more “relaxed” about the process now.

Hayden much more “relaxed” about the process now.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM US TO YOU!

Oh our little family! We stayed home today in LA to have a quiet holiday together. Feeling very grateful for our life today. And see our Oscar making it in the shot. I think he was so overwhelmed with the chaos, he stayed back!

And LIFE it has been! Hayden woke up wanting mommy to rock him at 3:30am. I couldn’t go back to sleep after that! Finally fall asleep right before he wakes up at 7am, so I nudge Joel to attack the day! His beautiful way of handling that was to match Hayden’s scream with his own scream! EYE ROLL. Needless to say, we were all up early. LOL. To all you parents out there, I feel ya!

Huck left to go be with his mom, but we will have him at Christmas. It’s not easy to share those you love, but it’s necessary. Hayden counts down the days till he gets to see his brother again. Anyone else out there with blended families doing the same thing today? My hope is that it’s peaceful and loving for both families.

I’m also feeling so grateful for all of you. When I wrote out my gratitude list, you all are on it! It’s been lovely to connect with you here on the blog and share ideas. Thanks for hanging in there with me and being so supportive of the projects I’ve been a part of this year. I try to get back to each of you and all the emails that come through this site one way or another- either through other blog posts or on instastories, etc. It takes a while sometimes, so I appreciate the patience. And really do like all the comments. What unexpected things are on your gratitude list?

I know some of you have had health troubles, some of you have been affected by natural disasters or the fires…. you are in my thoughts. Praying today is a good day surrounded by loved ones.

XOXO


If you’re anything like me, after I clean up later and am snuggling on the couch (do you watch anything specific on Thanksgiving? I have a feeling I’ll turn on one of my dearest Lacey’s Hallmark movies!), I’m sure I’ll be surfing the internet for pre-Black Friday sales and start attacking that Christmas list.

The boys’ pants are from JCrew - and the WHOLE SITE is 40% off right now. And a limited edition JCrew coat at Nordstrom’s is on sale…. it sold out and is now back in stock in three colors. (I just got it and am obsessed with the gorgeous blue color. I’ll be posting about it soon, but in case it sells out quickly, take a peek.) It may be predictable, but I get the bulk of Joel’s gifts from JCrew, so mind as well do it now while it’s on sale!

And my sweater in this photo comes in array of different colors. It’s under $50. I’m just a sucker lately for pink. It makes me feel more awake on days when the baby wants to read books at 3:30am!

But how sweet does he look in this dog sweater in the photo. By the way, Janie and Jack has the cutest kids’ clothes. Take 30% off of everything right now! (I know I still refer to him as the ‘baby’ even though he’s a full on toddler. I could go back and retype that, but I’m not! He’s still my baby for a bit longer… and forever in my heart.)

Homesick. Bear with me here....

Fall 2017. Did that year go by fast?

Fall 2017. Did that year go by fast?

SATURDAY 22ND 6PM:

I miss Hayden. I chose to take this film far away, so it feels wrong to now complain. I enjoy getting to work and am grateful. Perhaps complaining is not the right word.

Joel and I can talk all the time… communicate as often as we want (until recently, but that’s due to weather, see below). Huck has two homes. We don’t see him all the time; that’s our reality right now as a blended family. But, Hayden is just a toddler. We spend an incredible amount of time together. This time apart is out of the ordinary for us.

Question for parents: how old were your kids the first time you left them for an extended amount of time?

The days are long, but the years are short. A year ago this month, @Ographr took this shot.

The days are long, but the years are short. A year ago this month, @Ographr took this shot.

I think if I’m honest with myself, it feels like I’m missing out on these days with him; I feel guilty. Did I make the wrong choice? Every time I find myself missing him, it translates to guilt in the pit of my stomach. Serious separation anxiety. Hayden IS with my parents and sister. That part is the good news. He is bonding with them and literally having a blast: walking in the rain (fully clad with the cutest frog rain gear you’ve ever seen-see below), searching for lizards, playing with Betty the Bunny. My family is keeping him stimulated and smothered with love! But, I am up here in Canada far away from him. Hearing him say “Hold you, Mama…hold you” through the phone breaks my heart. For months he’s heard me say, “Want me to hold you?” Hence the “Hold you, mama.” 

I was kind of doing ok emotionally until today. Last night, a tornado hit Ottawa. Our production is right in the middle of it. I was downstairs near the hotel lobby waiting for one my producers and wardrobe for an intense, long fitting where we would decide on outfits for each remaining scene for my character Connie. There were other visitors in the lobby around the same time. In a chorus type melody, each phone began to sing the chime of a weather alert. One after another updating each of us of the danger heading our way. The news had a headline saying: TAKE COVER. STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS. A TORNADO IS YOUR NEAR VICINITY. What??? The other locals and desk clerks laughed. They said authorities loves to alarm citizens about tornados, but nothing ever happens. 

About five minutes later, through the large glass entry way doors, we saw the tree across the street leaning so far over on its side, it looked like a cartoon. The street lights flickered, then went out. Inside our hotel, the same thing happened. Zap! Darkness. It seemed surreal for a second. I thought to myself… oh geez, we’ll have to wait for a few minutes before the power returns. Well, that was over 24 hours ago.

While we are all safe, we have been without electricity. No one knows how long till it resumes. It’s mayhem here. Few stores or restaurants are open. The ones that are up and running are packed with lines out the door. Once I was able to charge my phone, cell service has been so spotty (and forget trying to get wifi), it’s been very hard to communicate with my husband and family. Currently, I am in a different section of the city writing this, charging my phone and hoping to get some food. Unfortunately, nothing is available near my hotel and since the refrigerator is out…you get the picture. Some of the headlines on the news say this area looks like a WAR ZONE. It’s sad. I feel for these people that are having to rebuild their lives and homes. And my understanding is that many are injured. The school where we’ve been shooting this film caught on fire and has extensive damage. 

No one has died, at least no reports I’ve heard. I thank God for that. And our production crew is safe and sound. So, all in all…. there is nothing more to say. 

Except, I always have one more thing to say, so… I guess it feels as though things can happen anywhere at anytime. My phone isn’t working- I can’t get the videos my parents are sending of Hayden. I know it sounds silly in the grand scheme of things. It’s only been 24 hours. People and families go through real troubles everyday.

I was scheduled to have five days off starting today. My plan was to be on a plane to Texas to see Hayden. And Joel was looking into meeting us there briefly until he was back in LA with Huck. But, alas, this force majeure has altered schedules and I am now shooting during part of that time. 

Hug your loved ones extra tight tonight. 

UPDATE SUNDAY 23rd 11AM:

Power is back on!! Wifi is still spotty, but I can find certain spots now to FaceTime with Joel and Hayden. I got a flutter of photos and videos from Joel (he is visiting his 89 year old grandmother!) and my family. 

The schedule had to be altered for production, but they’re on top of that figuring out new locations, a new school, what needs to be reshot… a lot of juggling. 

Thanks for letting me vent. I’ve received a few DMs or comments from people responding to instastories/posts about being away from Hayden. Your encouraging words help! I especially appreciate personal stories of your own experiences. Working mom stories, travels, etc. I

SECOND UPDATE: Omgoodness!!!! As I was finishing the update above, the fire alarm in this building went off! We were all evacuated temporarily. Kinda crazy. All was taken care of and we are back in our rooms, but wow. (see instagram stories)

SO…. I repeat. Hug your loved ones. Call your loved ones. And also—- I appreciate you all for reading this far! Much much love.

xo

AAJ

My last update..! I saw notes on instagram asking where to get this frog rain gear from the instastory….so, I said I’d add it to the blog post. He is 2 years and 5 months and the 2T fits perfectly. Size 7 shoe.

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frog umbrella











Could I love anything more?

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I was recently at an event where I was asked by several other mamas if Joel and I are considering having another baby. It's a common question, I know. I get asked it a lot. It's such a cliche, but I can't imagine loving another child as much as I love Hayden and Huck. I loved the time with Huck (and loved him) so much before Hayden was even here.... now that I have these two, I can't fathom another little baby! So, I'm interrupting the wellness posts (and looming other posts on work) to ask y'all about this cause it's just on my mind.

Before having Hayden, I used to think it was so silly for parents to say they couldn't comprehend loving another child as much as they loved their current ones. Well, my mind couldn't comprehend something that sounded so ridiculous. You just do, I thought to myself. My parents had three kids. My best friend has four kids. All kids are loved immensely. 

But, I get it now. It's not that you think you wouldn't love them as much, it's more about spreading your attention. This time with Hayden alone is so special, I want to love him and teach him as much as I can. Hayden is the only child often. Huck is in school and with his mom when he is not with us. But we do everything in our power to make the most of every minute with Huck. 

I do believe the concern of spreading yourself too thin is legitimate. Do you? I don't work outside of the home everyday, so that's a plus. Who knows if it's in the cards for us to ever expand the family, but I'm hoping you will share your thoughts if you have more than one child...or a blended family. My guess is that most of you will say things evolve organically, the way God intended. 

photos by  @ographr

photos by @ographr

*Jumper is on sale for $47. CUTEST cut out back. (I'm wearing a strapless bra). Really a great buy. I plan on adding a sweater (when it finally cools down here) and boots for a transitional look. 

On a different note, I plan on sharing more about the StarFish Project soon. Their mission "restores hope to exploited women in Asia." They provide life-changing opportunities through  Holistic Care Programs and social enterprise where women create beautiful jewelry and become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.

I am happy to support companies that are in the business of helping women and giving back to their community. I'm wearing these delicate dangle earrings here. FYI: the packaging is so sweet, with a note from the woman that made them. 

xoxo

AAJ

BACK FROM TEXAS: traveling with a toddler

Hayden and I are back in California and I'm missing my family. I'm not typically a jealous person, but I have to admit, when I see other people with their family surrounding them all the time, I wish we had that! But, alas, life choices took me away from Texas years ago and our family lives here in California!

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1. My Exact white dress (comes in 9 colors)  2. Variation of the dress 3. V-neck dress & bell sleeves

4. Similar Option to Sister's dress

BLENDED FAMILIES

I've been asked about life with a blended family. I don't feel like an expert on the topic, so I rarely comment. However, I realized sharing my experience is simply that... I'm not trying to give advice. There are so many beautiful aspects of a blended family. We cherish the time when our whole family is together (Hayden and Huck are very close-- it's chaotic, but great). But, when it comes to schedules and trips and visiting family, it gets hard. Although Huck was on spring break while Hayden and I were in Texas, that time is split between Joel and Huck's mom. Since I want to see my family as much as possible, often that means I am in Texas with just Hayden. We make it work like many of you do. Family trips just take more pre-planning and time. Who went through something similar recently? 

TRAVEL TIME WITH A TODDLER

It's a joy to see Hayden with his grandparents and my siblings. He loves his Aunt Jordyn! As hard as it is flying by myself with him on my lap (oh.my.goodness!), it's worth it. I think we are at an in-between stage traveling with him. A little bit older and he'll want to watch a movie. A little younger, he'd sleep on the plane. Right now, he just wants to roam. I tried to be overly prepared with a kid's headset, downloaded movies, snack packs, etc. and it definitely helps, but if you guys have tips from your own experiences, I'd LOVE to hear. I do love the backpack diaper bag. It's genius for traveling and walking through airports while pushing a stroller. 

I don't know about you all with toddlers, but we always seem to get our groove of naps and bedtime the last day or so. I have yet to figure out the best way to handle time changes and sleep routines. Hayden has done well recently in his own bed. Outside of his own bed, it is challenging. I've heard other kids sleep like champs in a pack and play, but Hayden fights me! This explains the lack of sleep and why my hair is usually in a bun! Lol. Of course, the very last day, he slept in the pack and play. 

WEAR IT AGAIN? yes, and again and again!

Okay, if you all visit the blog or follow on social media, you are well aware that I like this dress. Yes, this is the same one I wore last year on Easter. I love a great new dress or item of clothing, but I also appreciate pieces I already own. I've talked way too much about this dress, like I did HERE, so I'll move on now. Oh, and my flats are washable, sustainable and I love the petal pink. 

My sister's dress is so cute on her. Love the style and type... she got it from chicwish, a site I like, but it's sold out. So, I found great similar options. ALL the dresses below are under $100. So great for summer parties, date nights, baby showers, etc. And the dress I'm wearing comes in 9 different colors!

1. My Exact white dress (comes in 9 colors)  2. Variation of the dress 3. V-neck dress & bell sleeves

4. Similar Option to Sister's dress

 

I promise to move on to other fashion options soon! Hope everyone is having a great day. 

xoxo