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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  • Published on March 18, 2014

    As I write this post my oldest daughter, Sophia, is watching a soccer game in Barcelona and my youngest daughter, Eva, is skiing in Austria. I am so proud of my world traveling daughters and the adventurous, sophisticated and polished travelers they are. It’s not surprising since they have been on airplanes, trains, buses and subways since they were infants. Not to mention numerous road trips in the car including one 3 week cross-country  trip with their dad. Living on the “Left Coast” of California with family back East, the girls got used to long airplane rides and because they were  exposed to other cultures and lifestyles, it fostered their passion for travel and their ability to navigate an airport, train, bus and subway station.

    What makes their father and me even more proud is that they are both born leaders, which is a sign of true independence. It’s hard to believe that they will be 18 and 21 this summer. I will be in Europe with them to celebrate. I leave at the end of May and return mid-June. I can’t wait.


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  • Published on April 10, 2013

    PriusWe’re downsizing. Not the house. The car. We bought a Prius last week and we’re selling the Suburban. Now that our big brood of kids is mostly out of the house we don’t need such a big car. When we told the kids they all said, “That’s the end of an era.” It sure is. I love the springy pastel green color. And the gas mileage is pretty good too. It’s our new road trip car. Paul and I took it to San Francisco over the weekend and we’re headed to Santa Barbarba in a few weeks to  celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. It’s the beginning of a new era. Woo hoo!

  • Published on January 3, 2013

    "image of two oak trees" Paul and I celebrated the New Year weekend by attending a wine tasting at The Windy Oaks Estate Winery where we got married. Our wedding was in August when the grapes leaves were in full bloom and the dormant vines we saw on an overcast winter day the last weekend in December were just as beautiful and majestic. We poured ourselves each a glass of their outstanding premium chardonnay (which you can only purchase if you are a club member)  and hiked the short trek up to the windy oaks where we said our vows almost 7 years ago. It was peaceful, serene and relaxing. As we stood at the top of the hill and looked down at the vineyard, we reminisced about that day and re envisioned where we stood, where the tables were set up, and imagined the sound of the music, the laughter of our friends and family and the joy we felt and continue to feel that we found each other. It was a great day.

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  • Published on December 23, 2012

    I love Christmas. As a mother of five children who works full time this can be a very busy time of year for me, but I embrace it wholeheartedly because  I have learned how to relax and  enjoy the holidays by being being efficient and by delegating certain tasks to others. (Paul wrapped all of the presents and I hired a house keeper to clean the house.) It saves my sanity and I get to focus on the things I really enjoy.

    I shop online as much as possible and Paul and I have a brilliant time saving idea that has become a family tradition: we give the kids money to buy each other presents.  They know what each other likes and wants and we don’t have to worry about it. What’s more, they get to experience the joy of giving. Yesterday Eva and Cheryl went Christmas shopping and when they came home, Eva announced, “I’m so proud of my gift choices. I really put a lot of thought into them and I just can’t wait to give everyone what I got them!”

    Here’s a Shwanda family Christmas story that always warms my heart. Every year Paul gives his kids money to buy their mother a Christmas present. One year Cheryl was in charge  of holding the money and she lost some of it. It must have fallen out of her pocket. She was crushed. She started to cry because she could no longer afford the present she had picked out for her mother. My girls, empathizing with her, gave her some of their money so she would have enough to complete her purchase. What wonderful sisters and I’m sure their act of kindness and generosity meant the world to Cheryl.

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  • Published on October 31, 2012

    My husband took me away for my birthday last week. We went to a small island off the coast of Long Beach, CA called Catalina. I had always heard of it, even when I was growing up on the East Coast. It’s famous for its pristine beaches, crystal clear blue water, exquisite dining and European-esque mountainous cliff side homes. When we pulled into the harbor I told my husband it reminded me of Sorrento, Italy and Malaga, Spain, two cities I have had the good fortune to visit.

    To get there we had to take a ferry from Long Beach, but the night before we stayed on the Queen Mary, a retired cruise ship that is now permanently anchored and operates as a hotel. It was very magnificent and stately. Built in the ’30’s, it still has the original art deco wood paneling and lighting fixtures. We enjoyed sunning ourselves on the deck and touring the helm. Very cool. We stayed there a second night when we returned from the island.

    Then we arrived in Catalina– the island of romance. Not only was the place incredibly beautiful, I basked in my husband’s attention and the knowledge that he planned the trip down to the smallest detail, including a massage at the hotel spa (which I declined in favor of sunning myself on the roof top deck of our hotel.)  We rented bikes and toured the island, dined in fabulous seafood restaurants and relaxed.  We discussed our future plans and what our life would be like once the kids are all moved out of the house (more trips alone like this come to mind). We also patted ourselves on the back for making such a great go and success of blending our families and noted that we pretty much did it all on our own. We really didn’t have much outside help.  We stuck together. And for that we are very thankful.

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  • Published on October 11, 2012

    Yesterday I wrote about how I was coping about my pending empty nest. It’s hardly an empty house when you consider that I still have two kids living at home and most people I know with kids have only two to begin with, but you have to factor in my perspective. It was a whirlwind these past 6 years and Paul and I are still in amazement that we not only tackled the blended family challenge, but that we survived and flourished. This is a staggering accomplishment in light of the odds stacked against blended families. The divorce rate in first marriages is 50 percent and in second marriages it is close to 67 percent.

    I wish I could say that I had a magic formula for how to successfully blend five kids, four cats, three dogs, two fish and a bird, but I don’t. I just followed my instincts. I went with my gut. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Published on October 10, 2012

    Last night I made meat loaf and mashed potatoes for three people– Paul, Eva and myself. It felt very odd. Now that the three oldest kids are out of the house (Sam is in the Navy, Sophia is in the second year of college in Portland and Mark has move to San Francisco “to spread his wings”) and Cheryl was at her mom’s, our dinner table seemed kinda empty with just the three of us. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published on June 19, 2012

    Eva left for France this morning.

    My oh my.

    What a sophisticated, polished and poised young lady she has become, dressed in her cute sundress, gold slip ons, hair in a neat chignon. Aside from her North Face jacket, she could pass for a Parisian.

    And what a relaxed, calm and less emotional mother I have become. After her trip last summer to Spain where she had her passport stolen and was stranded unchaperoned in Madrid overnight when her flight home was canceled, you could say I have been “initiated.” I was much more at ease this time around and it was reassuring that Eva is not traveling alone. She is escorted by her friend and her older sister who is attending college in Tours.

    Yesterday was Eva’s 16th birthday and we celebrated in typical American teenager fashion with waffles for dinner followed by a cookie dough ice cream cake. And to think tomorrow she may be dining on escargot and eclairs. She will be gone for six weeks. When she comes home, her life will never be the same. How can you keep the kid down home in Santa Cruz after she’s seen Paris?

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  • Published on May 13, 2012

    Mother’s Day for me is often a mixed bag of emotions. I’m lucky that I get to celebrate with my own children who are now at the age of mastering breakfast. Today’s morning feast included waffles made from scratch, bacon and fresh strawberries. A big improvement over the runny eggs and cold toast they often served to me when they were little. Although this is a joyful occasion, I often reflect back and reminisce about my own mother who died 7 years ago and how much I miss her and wish I could be with her. In honor and celebration of what a great mother she was, I’m dedicating this blog post to her and all the wonderful wisdom, advice and guidance she imparted to me over the years. Below is a snippet of her most quotable quotes followed by one of my favorite stories about her.

    How Hard Can it Be?

    “How hard can it be?” This question was actually  a confidence boosting reassurance from my mother whenever I felt overwhelmed or challenged by a seemingly unattainable goal or daunting task. This was my mother’s way of saying that things aren’t always as hard as they seem and that I should be giving myself a lot more credit for my abilities. She also advised me to always wear sunscreen and to never leave the house without lipstick.

    (This is my favorite story about my mother. I’m off to have tea with my girls. Enjoy!)

    The Underwear Story

    I took my daughters to buy bras at Victoria Secret yesterday. They begged me. Believe me, I didn’t want to go. I don’t approve of the whole push up bra/thong scene, particularly for young girls. They insisted they have the best “I’ll-die-if -I-don’t-have-them-bras” so I relented on the condition that they select from my preapproved choices. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did indeed have a reasonable and tasteful assortment of styles and we had a really fun time shopping. Several hundred dollars later (I picked up a few too.) we headed over to Starbucks for a some lattes and some mother/daughter girl talk at which time I told them what has become known in my family as “The Underwear Story”. Read more…

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  • Published on May 11, 2012

    I am very pleased and proud to announce that my SeaweedArt has been featured in SeaWeb’s Ocean Voices. I was interviewed last week and it was extremely gratifying to me because it really helped me articulate my mission. Ocean cleanup and marine preservation are very important to me and I am so happy that SeaWeb has helped raise my voice to a much larger audience.

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