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 October 11, 2013

    The wonders of modern mobile and digital technology never cease to amaze me. Now that my daughter Eva is studying abroad in Germany through a Rotary Youth Exchange we have been able to communicate virtually almost daily through Skype, texting and snap chats. This enables her to share her amazing experiences with me and all of her friends and family here in the U.S.  The interactions are often short, but sweet and always welcome. I’m so glad she is having such a great time and able to chronicle her experiences beyond the traditional journal and photo albums. This also allays my fears and worries that she is safe and doing well.

    In exchange, we have a German student living with us and she is able to do the same thing with her friends and family back home in Germany. She Skypes with them and sends emails telling them about her experiences living with us. I’ve been in contact with her parents, answering their questions and easing their concerns too. This makes communication so much easier and I wonder how we ever lived without it. I can still remember my mom giving me a dime for a pay phone and telling me to call her when it is time to get picked up from somewhere and then getting a busy signal because someone was on the phone and we didn’t have call waiting. Times have sure changed.

    3 Comments
  • 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 »

    2 Comments
  • Published on July 31, 2012

    Eva is on her way back from France today and her flight should be landing in Chicago any minute. She has a four hour lay over, will clear customs and then catch her connecting flight to San Francisco later this afternoon. She was gone six weeks, had a whirlwind trip, visited the Eiffel Tower twice, saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, traveled to Versailles and then to Spain for the final two weeks of the trip.

    She almost didn’t make it home.

    Yesterday, around 3pm, she sent a frantic Facebook message telling us she was out of money and did not have the funds to purchase a train ticket from Barcelona back to France for her flight home. Oy.  (How she let this happen and did not keep track of her expenses is an issue I will address with her when she returns.)

    I was frantic. Wiring money would not get there in time. Her father is the one who handles adding money to her TravelEx card, but he was unavailable for three hours with his cell phone turned off, watching a play.(Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Go see it!) I learned that the only way to add “instant” money to TravelEx card was to drive to San Jose, usually a 30 minute drive from our house, to the TravelEx store in the mall to add the funds in person. I finally reached her dad at 5:45 and he drove, frantically, through beach traffic, and arrived at the store just as it was closing. He convinced them to reopen the store for him and he was able to add the money. Whew! What a dad.

    My heart just started beating again.

    No Comments
  • Published on March 19, 2012

    Below is an except to a follow up piece I wrote for Parent Society called My Gay Ex-Husband about why I think gay people can and do make good parents, and why I am in favor of same sex marriage. Although the original title was called, Do Gay People Make Good Parents?, I now think a more apt title would have been, Can Gay People Make Good Parents? because as one of my readers pointed out, it doesn’t really matter if you are gay or straight, you could be a great or lousy parent regardless of your sexual orientation.

    When my oldest daughter turned 16, my ex-husband, “J” bought her a car. He asked me for a ride to the dealership so he could pay for it and pick it up. As I drove away from the parking lot, I glanced bank and watched him as he sat down at the salesman’s desk, pulled out his reading glasses from his pocket, put them on and took out his check book. I couldn’t help but think, “How dad-like.” Yes, my ex-husband has turned into his father. Aside from the divorce, this could be a modern Norman Rockwell story, an all-American rite of passage. Dad buys his daughter a car. What a guy. The difference here of course, for those of you not up to speed, is that my ex-husband is gay. Read more…

    No Comments
  • Published on March 1, 2012

    "image of the Eiffel Tower"Eva, my world traveler, is heading to France this summer for 6 weeks. We just booked her ticket. She will be traveling with a friend who is visiting her older sister who attends college in Tours. They will be staying in a small town about an hour’s train ride from Paris. She is so excited. She and her friend are planning their itinerary, which includes visits to the Louvre, the Loire Valley and dining with some local families.

    As you may recall, last summer Eva spent a month in Spain, where she studied at the Segre University in Granada. Her father and I find it remarkable that she has developed such a zest for foreign travel at such a young age. She once told me, dreamily, “Mom, I want to see the world.” She also said when she hears people speaking in another language she gets frustrated when she can’t understand them. Her Spanish is getting pretty good and she is now learning French from an App she downloaded onto her iPhone. She plans to graduate from high school a year early and apply through Rotary to be a foreign exchange student in a Spanish speaking country.

    You go girl. And to think my mother freaked out when I moved from Philadelphia to New York City. Times sure have changed.

    1 Comment
  • 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 »

    No Comments
  • 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.

    No Comments
  • 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

    or…

    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 October 4, 2011

    I spoke to Sophia today. She called to thank me for the colossal care package I sent her. She said the mail room attendant told her, “Man, that thing’s heavy.” It was. 28 pounds.  I kind of overdid it. And it wasn’t the first time. Perhaps I am overcompensating. Her friends are on to me. They’re placing their orders. “Tell your mom to send those lemon cookies again. And some brownie mix.”

    You see, I miss Sophia. But somehow, I don’t think she’s missing me. And quite frankly, I’m relieved, because I was afraid that she would and that would have been awful. She’s not homesick in the least. The day before we left her at school she was weepy and anxious about me leaving. I assured her once we separated she would be fine. She has a four day break this week and I told her if she wanted to she could fly home for the weekend. That reassured her.

    Today she informed me that she was going to Washington to her friend’s house for her break.

    “How are you going to get there?” I inquired.

    “My friend has a car.”

    “How long of a drive is it?” I gulped anxiously.

    “Five hours.”

    “Make sure you wear your seat belt,” my timid, lame response.

    What more could I say? She’s an adult now. No further interrogation from me. What I don’t know is probably best.

    When I think back to my own college years and the bomb of car I drove it’s a wonder I survived. No seat belts. The brakes didn’t always work. Seriously. My parents let me drive this clunker. (They also let us play with dart guns.) And the passenger door would occasionally fling open. It was advised to not sit too close.

    What I don’t know is probably best.

    3 Comments
  • 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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