About Carol

Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.

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I would like my blog to be a forum for my readers to share their stories and experiences and express their views and opinions about being a part of a blended family. I am working on a book tentatively titled:Blended Family Stories. It will be an in depth look at the real life challenges and joys of successful blended families. If you would like to be part of my research I'd love to hear from you.Take my Blended Family survey

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For advice or information, email carol@shwanda.com


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Seaweed Art Cards
  • Published on June 13, 2012

    This past week was Sophia’s birthday and to celebrate, my sister Jill and I took the girls to San Francisco for the day for a girl trip. First we headed to Chinatown for Dim Sum.

    Dim Sum in Chinatown

    Then some shopping at Union Square, followed by a tour of the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the de Young museum.

    Jean Paul Gautier Wetsuit

    We ended our day at the Japanese Tea Garden, which has become a bonding blended family girl tradition. We had a blast. I couldn’t help but feel that the three girls have truly bonded and are now sisters. We’ve come a long way.

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  • Published on April 25, 2012

    "image of pressed flowers on bottles"I’ve written a lot lately about how I am “getting my groove back” so to speak now that the kids have either moved out of the house or are so independent they really don’t want us around. Paul and I are approaching the empty nest phase of our lives quite rapidly and with relish. We’ve spent the last few weekends cleaning up the yard and planting a garden and I am so thrilled to have the time and energy once again to devote to a long neglected passion. I love to cook with fresh herb and vegetables from my garden, but I also like to create art with pressed flowers.

    Before I married Paul I used to have a business decorating glassware– bottles and wine glasses, with pressed flowers. I mentioned to Paul that I would like to get back into again, not as a business, but more but as a creative outlet. I could sell them on Etsy, where I’m currently selling my original pressed seaweed art. It is obvious that I love to press things as keepsakes in order the capture the sometimes fleeting nature of the natural world.

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  • Published on April 12, 2012

    Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Circle of Mom Top 25 Blended Family Blog contest. I finished 14th and that’s definitely in the top 25! The winners of the contest were all asked several questions about what it is like to be a (step)mom in a blended family. Some of their answers may surprise you. Some of my answers surprised me. You can click here to read the questions and vote on which answers are your favorites.

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  • Published on February 27, 2012
    "image of man standing next to inflatable man"

    Paul and the inflatable man, aka, Surfing Santa.

    Paul and I did an early spring cleaning this year and sorted through our storage room, drawers, cupboards, cabinets, shed and closets and put all of the castaways out on the driveway for a yard sale. It was an all weekend project that we strategically chose to do on a no kid weekend so as to not have to deal with our kids pleas to keep stuff that they haven’t looked at or played with in years. (Blended families tend to have a lot of duplicate DVD’s and Harry Potter books.) Don’t worry, I saved Cheryl’s Winnie the Pooh chair and Mark’s term paper on rock ‘n’ roll, but the rest, like board games with missing pieces and deflated basketballs, were chucked. It was both cathartic and sentimental. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published on February 6, 2012

    "image of art studio"I’ve written about this before, but I can’t help but mention it again, I LOVE my studio. My husband built my art studio as a wedding present and it is by far my favorite room in the house, except it’s not in the house. It is in a building at the back of our property. My husband’s office is right next to mine. We get to work side by side. I love having my own special place. I come out here early in the morning before the kids are up and drink my chai and write. On weekends I am working on my SeaweedArt and in the evenings I write some more and sometimes read. It is my sanctuary. Thank you dearest husband for building this for me.

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  • Published on January 25, 2012

    My daughter Sophia left for college a few weeks ago. She was home for winter break for about a month and it was so wonderful having her here. We made cookies, and gingerbread houses, got our nails done, went out to lunch and the movies, went to the beach, finished a sewing project, took a trip to San Francisco and spent our last day together at the Santa Cruz wharf watching the "image of harbor seals at Santa Cruz wharf"harbor seals.  We sure had a lot of  Mommie and Me time together. I was very pleased and impressed with what a sophisticated, articulate and well spoken young lady she had become.

    I won’t see her again until May when she gets out of school since she is not planning to come home for Spring break.

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  • Published on November 29, 2011

    Every year, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary enlists a small army of readers to comb through books, magazines, newspapers and various online sources to find new words and their meanings that have entered the English language lexicon. I was amused to read some recent additions, for instance:

    guy liner n: eyeliner for men


    kiss and cry n:  the area where competitive figure skaters wait with their coaches to receive scores from judges

    And my personal favorite that finally gives a name to my teenage daughter’s room…

    Floordrobe n: The floor of a room, littered with discarded clothing. See image below.

    "image of teenage girl's room littered with clothing

    Floordrobe: teenage girl's room littered with clothing

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  • Published on November 19, 2011

    As anyone who has been through a divorce that involves children can attest, the first and most important priority should be determining custody and parental visitation. My ex-husband, Jared and I strived to make the transition as smooth as possible by establishing two separate households where our children could feel comfortable and at home. Following tips and advice from divorce advice books like Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two, we made sure they had all of the amenities they needed. Aside from having toiletries and wardrobes at each house, they even had duplicate board games and school text books.

    As for our own communal possessions,  Jared and I were very fair as well. As positive divorces go, we are the poster parents. I got the wedding china because he didn’t care, and he got all of the Spanish cookbooks, because I know how much he enjoyed them. Photo albums were a bit more of a challenge, but easily remedied by making doubles. One year for Christmas I made Jared copies of all of our home movies. But what about things that cannot be duplicated? Like the kids’ art work?  Jared and I recently arrived at a very creative solution to what otherwise could have been an uncomfortable and difficult decision for our youngest daughter, Eva.

    Eva's Flower

    Eva is an extremely talented artist. At the end of last semester, she brought home her art portfolio of work to my house, with the exception of one truly magnificent chalk pastel of a flower that she gave to her father. Jared had the piece framed and asked me if I had seen it. I didn’t know anything about it. One day, when he was dropping Eva off from her weekend at his house, Jared brought it in to show me. I was stunned by its beauty and the exquisite attention to detail. It was so life-like I thought it was a photograph. Eva was beaming with pride while she watched her parents admire her work. It was at that moment that Jared came up with the idea that we would share “Eva’s Flower” by taking turns hanging it in our house, like art collections that are shared by various museums. At the moment it is “on loan” to me where it is prominently displayed in my dining room. Just in time for the holidays.

  • Published on October 29, 2011

    Our numbers are dwindling. Not only are the kids moving out, but sadly, our pets are dying. Yesterday we had to have our beloved cat, Kyle Kitty, put to rest. He was 12 years old. The kids all took it hard. Cheryl and Eva held him, cried and said their goodbyes. I took him to the vet alone, where I balled my eyes out like a baby.

    When I left the vet’s office, with an empty cat carrier, there was a beautiful sunset. How metaphorical I thought. I paused to look at it and reflect on my thoughts. When I got home I told Paul it was the end of an era. We got Kyle when Sophia was in first grade. It was a surprise when she came home from school. She was so excited. Kyle was a mate to another black kitty we had, named Rosie, who now resides with my sister, Jill. ( Rosie, always a skittish, scaredy cat, could never adapt to our large, bustling blended family.) I had two cats for my two girls. They comforted  them through hurts and skinned knees, and they comforted me too. They were good company on lonely nights as a single mother. My fondest memory is watching my girls scamper down the hallway to their rooms at bedtime with two black kitties trailing closely behind.

    To Kyle Kitty. May he rest in peace.

    "image of black cat"

  • Published on October 4, 2011

    "image of colorful carrots"I’ve been eating these carrots all summer, but the burnt oranges, rusts and ambers of these golden vegetables seem so autumnal to me.

    It rained today. Paul made a fire in the living room. I cooked meatloaf, mashed potatoes and maple glazed carrots for dinner. We have three kids left at home, which is more than most people have to begin with, yet the house seems so empty to me.

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