The Next Chapter

Sometimes when I tell the story of my life I talk about how at one point, before getting into memory keeping and before having any kids, I envisioned that I was on a path to being a stay-at-home-mom and having five kids while my husband worked to support our family.  

Life has a funny way of making things happen in ways we never expect. 

My story, like most of yours, has twists and turns and highs and lows. We imagine things are going to happen one way and then something entirely different happens - either by our own choice or the choices of others. That has definitely been the story of my life - from having a child with autism to my career to going through a divorce to finding a new partner. 

A couple weeks ago I posted the following on Instagram: 

Almost 4 years ago my friend Kim left me a message telling me about a friend of hers who was looking for a friend. "You have similar stories," she said. We met a couple days later when Katie and I went to the Twilight marathon at the movie theater (a great story for another time). Since then we've been to China, New York, Disneyland & Disneyworld, France, Hawaii, Peru, Mexico, and to the Gorge to see Dave Matthews the last three Labor Day weekends. We've had a zillion and one discussions about the past, the present and the future - about who we are and where we come from and can this actually work. We are both over-thinkers (which serves us well in certain areas of our lives) which can be a little tricky when it comes to forward movement in a relationship, especially when there are a bunch of other hearts & minds involved. All this to say, we are moving forward together. ❤️. Anyone want to buy my house?

Moving forward together. That's what this next chapter is all about. 

Since posting that on Instagram we've decided to stay in my house and make some modifications to hold everyone (my heart is super happy about this decision but I was also completely willing to move). We're in the process of having plans drawn up to create one additional bedroom and we are creating a room in the back of my garage as a space for Aaron's work and music. 

Aaron has three kids ages 7 (Audrey), 9 (Elliott), and 11 (Isaac). As most of you know, I have two kids (Anna - age 7 and Simon - age14). All together, as basic math would have it, that equals five kids. 

The crazy thing of life for us and our specific situation is that sometimes we'll have all five kids here in the house and sometimes we'll have none and sometimes it will be any other number combination. We both have caring ex-spouses who are very involved in their children's lives. All together we form a community of grown-ups who are working together for the greater good of these kids - one day at a time, one conversation at a time, one decision at a time. 

We take nothing for granted and no decisions lightly. And nothing is perfect. 

As I was writing this post I went back through all my photos for the last four years to share with you today. I've been taking photos all along since the day we met and since the day all our kids met. There have been many meals around tables and other adventures and celebrations and gatherings and everyday stuff. Not all of these photos and stories have been told or shared publicly. Some have made it into my Project Life® albums - many of those photos included the backs of kids' heads as it wasn't yet time to share them as part of the larger story of our lives. 

Two years ago (almost to the day) I wrote a post called A Story Of Two People. When I re-read that today what I love reading most is this, "We are learning as we grow. Alone and together about who we are as individuals and who we are together and what it means to have our families expand." Taking our time was important to us because the story includes so many more people than just him and me. 

As we begin the process of intentionally merging together it's with joy and enthusiasm from all the involved hearts. Simon told me, "I've always wanted brothers."

Here are some pieces of our story as it's evolved: 

Our first coastal adventure in December 2012. They have all grown so much over the last four years. Anna and Audrey will likely not remember what it was like before knowing each other (they were both three/almost four when we met).

Sunriver 2013. 

County Fair 2013.

Seattle 2014. 

Disneyland 2014 with Simon + Isaac. 

Out at the lake July 2014.

Spring Break RV trip 2015.

Reading Harry Potter by headlamp.

Traveling home from DisneyWorld July 2015.

And then there have been many adventures just me and Aaron: 

New York 2012. 

China 2013. 

Paris 2013. 

Dave Matthews 2013 (and 2014 and 2015).

Peru 2014 (can't wait to see you guys again Bob + Donna). 

San Francisco 2014.

Coos Bay 2014.

Spring Break 2015 at a Golden State basketball game in Oakland. 

One thing that I'm super excited about is that when we come home from a trip now we will be coming back to the same house instead of heading to our separate homes. 

And then there's just the everyday life kinda stuff - some at his house and some at my house:  

Playing music. 

Playing video games. 

Watching movies or shows. 

Talking about blogs. 

Reading books. Aaron is the very best at tucking his kids in for the night. Seriously impressive effort. 

"Maybe someday we'll be sisters."

And many times around the table. 

Here are some of the things I'm learning/re-learning/thinking about right now:

  • Life really does unfold in chapters. Some move the story forward with heartbreak and some with crazy amounts of joy. 
  • It's okay to just embrace what "is" right now. What "is" for us is a very big transition. We are taking our time. We are embracing the mess that is moving two complete households into one. We are conscious and aware of feelings and tensions and figuring it out one step at a time.
  • That in sticking with my life mantra of living the length and the width I need to let myself really be happy in this season without falling back into fear. 
  • I'm thinking a lot about and looking for ways to celebrate and honor the beginning of the next chapter. This is a big deal for all of us. The merging of personalities and my continued mission to celebrate each one for who they are. 
  • I'm treasuring and not taking for granted having a partner again under the same roof again. The give and take of it all. I'm so glad that I had a decent length of time to essentially be on my own in this house - to embrace that time for what it was and all that it taught me about myself and my kids and all that I learned about Aaron along the way. 
  • So much excitement for the creation of new traditions.
  • I'm researching and looking for ideas and tips for large family meal planning and organization. Even though they won't all be here all the time I want to have it be as organized as possible - I think we all operate better under those conditions. 

Here's to stories unfolding and hearts expanding and in-the-middle-of-the-mess-transitions and opening wider. 

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159 thoughts

  1. minimd12 says…
    07/28/2016

    The meaning behind these moments and the poignancy and presence with which you share them is why we all admire you so much. So much love and happiness to you and your family on this next big and beautiful step! =)

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. barefootscrapbooker says…
    07/28/2016

    I love reading your blog and sharing in your thoughts about life and memories, but I have to say: this has been my favorite post. Congratulations to all of you for finding people who make you happy, who give meaning to special moments, who enrich you. Big changes can be the scariest and the most magical of all. Much love!

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  3. vtlou says…
    07/28/2016

    What a wonderful evolving tale of love - best wishes for a very happy future to you all.

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  4. Roxanne24 says…
    07/28/2016

    Oh Ali....I am so very happy for you and Aaron! Your message brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing. Sometimes, life gives you a fairytale, right in the middle of an ordinary life! Best wishes for a lifetime of happiness.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. TracieClaiborne says…
    07/28/2016

    Well I didn't know there were drums involved...that changes things. haha!! (I always said I could never be with someone who played drums in my house! haha!) I feel we are kindred spirits now with our musical men. Would love to hear more about Aaron's music sometime. Is it for fun? Does he have gigs? What kind of music does he like to play? Isn't it the best having someone musical? Are you and your kids musical? That is so fun. I really wish you could have found someone good looking though........heehee! Loved reading this! I love your contemplative nature and storytelling ability so much. You are such an inspiration.

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  6. angelzmom says…
    07/28/2016

    You're amazing, Ali, and your heart will lead you. Blessings and much happiness to all of you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. SueTR says…
    07/28/2016

    My heart is bursting to full for you guys, I am so so happy for you friend. enjoy the journey xo

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  8. Rlphilbr13 says…
    07/28/2016

    Soooooooo extremely happy for you Ali and your new adventure!!! As far as organization and cooking...right up my "alley" Drop me an email and I can hook you up to tons of "Power Cooking" weekly ideas and any specific ways you need in organizing Things like...picking up FIVE rotisserie chickens on Mondays when they are five bucks at Earth Fare (excellent free range, hormone free GOOD for you food that is great for Simon and all the kiddos ;). THEN you cut it up for meals...hit dark, juicy chicken legs & thighs instantly for Monday's dinner (served with salad or sliced cucumbers in vinegar or baked potatoes if you throw them into the oven before you go out to the store ). Then separate the wings and throw them into a BIG stock pot! Remove the breasts and set aside for leftovers. Let the carcasses cool and remove any additional meat from the bones and I make a "dark meat pile". Then add the carcusses to the stock pot (you may need to crush them ;). ADD one large onion (including the skins) chopped to the pot. TWO chopped carrots (with skins ;). Two chopped celery stalks (or chop the rough ends and leaves from a whole bunch and add them to the pot (no waste here;) ADD a few crushed garlic cloves, a tablespoon of poultry seasoning (sage, thyme & rosemary) and salt & pepper to taste. A splash of wine and fill stock pot with filtered water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce heat and SIMMER 4-6 hours for fantastic broth! STRAIN it all and store in glass canning jars that FREEZE. I have a great "hot n'Sour soup" recipe for the mixed dark and white meat and broth as well as mixed fried rice if you need them. I know how to feed a crowd with food that all of my family loves (even the picky ones ;) so send an email if you are interested I have more power cooking in a day for the entire week recipes Roberta ( rlphilbr13@aol.com)

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  9. Kimberly_White says…
    07/28/2016

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Be blessed.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Mommyswanson says…
    07/28/2016

    Thanks for sharing your story!! Such a beautiful one it is. Lovely photos as always!! Blessings to your big beautiful bunch!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. patowle says…
    07/28/2016

    I first came across you when you were going through your divorce. It made me sad, even though I don't know you. I've come to appreciate your work and all that you offer to the scrapbooking community over the last few years. I'm genuinely happy that you've found love again - I wish you all nothing but joy going forward!

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  12. LaLa2012 says…
    07/28/2016

    I have tears of joy in my eyes. I'm so happy for you, Ali. Brightest blessings for you, Aaron, the children, and may you have all the happiness your hearts can hold.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Dawnk104 says…
    07/28/2016

    As usual, you have documented this part of your story perfectly. Thank you for sharing. I love the picture of Simon with his arms around Aaron. All of the kids are so lucky to have such wonderful parents!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. suezig says…
    07/28/2016

    I love this! I come from a blended family! 4 boys 1 girl! I can say it has been quite the roller coaster. Some great, some good, some not so great, not so good! I wouldn't trade it for nothing...All of It! I have 2 Dads and 2 Moms! What more can a girl want! Our family gatherings are quite loud and spectacular! Enjoy...it's a great ride!!

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  15. dfynner says…
    07/28/2016

    I have been following your story for many years, having taken classes from you at CKU. I also have had a bit of blending in our family and know the challenges and rewards of moving forward as well as the heartache and hurt of losses. So happy that you have found each other and that your extended families all work together for the kids, so awesome! One thing I did to stay organized with meals was paint a section of my kitchen wall with chalk paint and make a one week menu. Everybody knew what was coming and didn't have to ask, I knew what direction I was going in. I left a space on the bottom for the kids to write things they needed picked up at the grocery store. I'd take a picture of it with my cell phone (or get them to if I forgot). Worked pretty well for us.

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  16. virginiegoujon says…
    07/28/2016

    Beautiful post, beautiful pictures. Just wondering what kind of music Aaron plays. My husband is playing guitar (and drums from time to time) as well.
    Best wishes.
    Virginie

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. loripsm121 says…
    07/28/2016

    Did you ever think this would be your story? So happy for your new family. (And secretly that you're staying in your house...the light, your office, your flowers/gardens, LOVE) But really what I want to say is way to go! I knew Aaron had Audrey and vaguely other kids. But so much respect for keeping them private both in photo and in writing. Internet "privacy" is so hard in this age and you did it so well and should be very proud!

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  18. Lize says…
    07/28/2016

    Congratulations Ali, your families looks like they're meant to fit, with all the A names, and the way you all look like family already. Wishing you a happy transition. and beautiful new season. I feel fortunate to have followed your story through many chapters.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. bethie1118 says…
    07/28/2016

    You shared this story beautifully. Congratulations to your whole family. Enjoy every minute of it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. vkimmycat says…
    07/28/2016

    My heart is so full of joy from reading this post and sharing in your happiness for blending your families together under one roof. I believe that you guys have lived as one family all along, so the actual physical transition will be easier than you think. Continued blessings to you all!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. crazej says…
    07/28/2016

    Thanks for sharing...wonderfully written...and I wish you all the best together

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. nicolemartel654 says…
    07/28/2016

    Really enjoyed reading this post. Good for you guys! Hugs

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  23. LeeAndra says…
    07/28/2016

    I have been following your journey since 2003 (seeing your AAM albums at 2Peas is what got me started in digital scrapping!), Ali, and I have to say that this blog entry made me cry big fat happy tears. Even though we don't know each other, I feel like I know you. You have handled each new bump in your road with the utmost class and grace and respect for all parties involved, and you document each bump so beautifully and authentically. You are truly one of my sheroes.

    I'm so so so happy for you & Aaron & the kids. I can't wait to see all the photos and layouts to come celebrating this happy new chapter in your lives. :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. kholtz says…
    07/28/2016

    We made this leap about 6 months ago - which means that at any given time, we have a combination of Littles (3 & 5) and Bigs (19 & 24) at home. Next week will mark the first time that we've had all 4 home at the same time. At times it feels like chaos, and at times it feels like perfection. Wishing you & Aaron all the best!!

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  25. kathyb says…
    07/28/2016

    It is lovely to be able to 'share' your happy news Ali. Wishing you all every happiness in this next chapter of your adventure. Exciting times ahead.

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