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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PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

I’m thrilled about our new sponsor: CFP Board. They’re shedding light on something I want all of us to think about and discuss – our finances. It’s not always comfortable, but it is extremely necessary.

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As you may already know from my other posts, Joel and I are thinking about expanding our family (eeep!); this has led to discussions about our finances.

Lately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with my mind racing about these discussions. I know stress is not the best during this “process,” but it’s also hard to avoid.  Joel and I both have family in the financial world that have impressed upon us the importance of planning for the future. We were told it was time to get help and make a plan created by a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.

First off, I’m learning that many people without the necessary qualifications call themselves financial planners, so just beware. It’s essential to get someone who has a CFP® certification upholding the ethical standards required of a CFP® professional. Just like you want a doctor that has the proper license, you want someone guiding your finances that has the proper qualifications.


Like my desire to KonMari style organize my house is strong, my desire to get organized financially is even stronger. Meeting with a CFP® professional near us (letsmakeaplan.org) can help Joel and I start working on all of those questions that keep popping up in the middle of the night. I mainly want to plan for education (from preschool to college) and know how much we should be putting away for retirement and life insurance. It must be our age, but retirement seems to come up in conversation a lot lately. It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day and be happy just making ends meet every year, but I know there is a way to WIN the rat race one day–and enjoy retirement–IF we stay on a targeted plan.  

AshandHuck.ashleyajones.com


Like most Americans, our financial needs range and change. The above thoughts are my urgent issues today, but I also have so many others. For instance, lots of little questions about our personal taxes for those of us with blended families. A CFP® professional will work with us today and grow with us as our needs change, especially if (and when!) another little one joins the family. How can we make our money work for us, not the other way around!??  My father gave me the best reason to work with a CFP® professional: worry less. He said money is a terrible master, but a wonderful servant.

Do you feel like your money is working for you? I hope so! But could it be working harder? I’m excited to let the professionals do what they do best, so I can be the best for those I love and be the best at what I love.

It’s so easy to just meet with a CFP® professional. Go to letsmakeaplan.org and find one in your area. The best part of CFP® professionals is that they work with you to build a plan to take care of a myriad of needs–both big and small. If you are starting your own family, there is NO better time than now to start planning ahead and securing your future. If you’re even younger, let me tell you: when I bought my first house in my 20s, I thought that was enough to secure my financial future, but in hindsight, I could have done so much more had I retained a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. See what they have to say!

If you’re interested, I hope to share our journey with you all–and show you how much financial planning can serve you in your lives. It can be a lifelong relationship, my CFP® pro and me!

As always, any comments below are welcomed! Have you ever worked with a financial planner?

xox

AJH

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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.)