Co-Parenting: A Guide to Making it Simple, and Not Being a Jerk.

Hey guys! I’ve gotten a few comments and questions regarding our family situation. A few people have even asked for the best advice I would give when it comes to keeping a positive co-parenting relationship. I’m certainly no expert, and the only personal experience I have with co-parenting dates back just 5 years. So with that being said, I will try my very best to give (what I think are some of the best) tips and advice on the topic.

As many of you know, we are a blended family. I use the term “blended family” over “split household” or “step family” because I absolutely loathe those terms. I mean seriously? What is a “split household” anyway? Moving on- here’s how our family works. “Technically speaking” Brian has Jayce (6) and I have Marek (5), but neither of us has ever referred to our children as “my son, your son” it’s “ours”. After all, we are both parents to both kids. Now that we’ve got the basic dynamics covered, we can move on to these pieces of advice. *Definitely take these at your own risk, what has worked for us will not work for everybody or for every situation.*

Put all previous relationship drama aside:

Everybody breaks up for a reason, and whether it be cheating, money, or just general differences in a relationship. HOWEVER, this now has NOTHING to do with the co-parenting stage in your life. Erase that issue from your mind, because if you are going into a co-parenting relationship with a hateful heart you are going to do nothing but harm your child in the long run. This stage of life is about your child, and has ZERO to do with you, your ex-partner, your in-laws, or anyone else for that matter. This is about your child and believe it or not they did not ask to be brought into this mess, so make this transition as easy as possible for everyone involved by leaving your personal feelings aside.

Now I will say that this part is not easy, and it definitely takes some growth and some work getting used to the idea of other people being around your child. It even takes some work getting used to the idea of giving your child up when you don’t want to, but as time goes on it becomes routine and feels slightly easier when you’re not fighting it. Give in to the process, trust the process.

Include your ex when it involves your child:

Whether it be doctor appointments, parent teacher conferences, school field trips, first days, dentist appointments, etc. More than likely you both won’t be able to go all of the time, but things work a lot more smoothly if everyone keeps everyone else in the loop on the schedules. Nobody likes being left out, especially when it has to do with their child. Let me tell you what, not inviting your baby daddy/baby mom to a school Christmas program doesn’t make them look like a bad parent as much as it makes you look like the immature, selfish, vindictive one. This took me a long time to get used to, but I’m getting better at communicating appointments and my plans with Marek to his dad. It definitely benefits the child when you realize and accept that you aren’t the only parent your child has. Jayce’s mom is definitely great at inviting us to things even when they are on her time which is a lot of fun for all of us. The past few years for Halloween whoever has Jayce invites the other set of parents to come trick-or-treating and that is a blast every time. The kids love see their parents getting along, and I think there is something to be said with easing their anxiety about having divorced/separated parents and families.


This should be a no brainer, but unfortunately there are so many people who do not heed this advice. This is like the unspoken rule that I think most people know when it comes to co-parenting. Plus, once your kid is old enough to hear and understand what you’re saying they are going to know that there is animosity between you and they will suffer from it. Just don’t be that guy. Or girl. Don’t do it, it’s tacky to be a jerk in a co-parenting situation. Remember that we are all supposed to be on the same team!

Communicate when it comes to your child:

Whether you like it or not you will have to communicate with your ex, like A LOT. Your child will have issues at daycare or school, or need help with various different things ranging in school work to behavior that needs to be addressed. Discussing with your child’s other parent on what you all plan to do is the best for all parties. KEEP IN MIND: IT IS OKAY TO NOT DO THINGS THE SAME AT BOTH HOUSEHOLDS. SAY IT WITH ME. I was once told by a lawyer that I cannot dictate what the father of my child does with my child at his house. As much as this sucks, it’s something that is best to accept early on since NOTHING will change this. If you ex wants to feed your child 6 candy bars before bed at night, they can. If you ex wants to let your kid BMX freestyle off of a cement half pipe, they can. Communicating that these things make you uncomfortable or worried is appropriate, but nothing good ever comes from telling your ex what they can and cannot do with your child.

At the end of the day with co-parenting, the best thing to be is patient and understanding. We are all in this together, we are all on the same team and rooting for the growth and prosperity of the same kid. If you put all of the hurt feelings and negative dating/marriage experiences aside it actually might end up working really well. Another thing to remember is to be like “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski:


Typically we only have about 18 years with our kids if we are some of the lucky ones, don’t spend it feuding with your ex. Get along (at least be civil), and may everything you do be in the best interest of your child.

Until next time.





Why I’m Not A Stay-At-Home Mom

To be honest you guys, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time but could never find a starting point. I’ve been asked the question why I don’t stay at home with my kids multiple times and after thinking about it, I have finally decided there’s no better time to share than the present. It’s no surprise that this topic is usually a sensitive one from all sides. People seem to feel very strongly about this one way or the other, and parents usually feel the need to defend their decisions in a pretty aggressive manner. I’m also going to throw this disclaimer in here that I in no way, shape, or form think that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing. On the contrary- I rather envy those who get to spend more time with their kids than I. I also do not think that being a mom who works outside of the home is a bad thing. I really believe that this is one of those topics that depends on what works best for you and your family at the time in which it’s being discussed or decided. With that being said, here’s some insight into why I choose to be a mom with a career in the workforce.

At first, I didn’t have any other option. I was barely 19 when Marek was born and I didn’t have a job with FMLA benefits that allowed for maternity leave. This meant that I went without pay or insurance benefits for however long I decided to stay home with him. My son was just 3 1/2 weeks old when I decided to go back to work. This was not because I didn’t want to stay at home with him, but financially we just couldn’t pull it off.

Since then, I’ve nearly finished my bachelors degree, and worked hard for an awesome career. I have two beautiful boys who mean the world to me, and a wonderful and super supportive husband. The road to getting where I am now was long, there is no other way to put it. Blood, sweat and tears doesn’t even begin to cover where I’ve been to get to where I am today. The following are my reasons:

#1. Financial- As many of you know, having children and a family can be expensive. (Who am I kidding, my husband is much more of a financial burden than my children). We enjoy having a dual income household where we can have some financial freedom to take our kids places and spend money on them when we want. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t drowning in money just because both of us work. We have two car payments, a mortgage, and the usual utilities. However, it is nice to not have to budget each cent earned by one person right down to the penny. We have just enough wiggle room added to our monthly budget to be able to do something fun for us. For some people, they can make it work on one income and that’s great! For us though, I can’t justify being a stay at home mom if it’s going to limit us as a family.

#2. My degree- I am just 4 months away from completing my bachelors degree. As a “teen mom” this is one of my greatest accomplishments aside from my children and marriage. Obtaining my bachelors degree shows that I put forth the effort needed to learn and master the material of the program and speaks a lot about who I am. I am driven, I am motivated. I have wanted this not only for myself, but also to set an example for my kids that HARD WORK PAYS OFF. Of course they don’t need to accomplish a degree, but it’s the example of working hard- nothing in this world is free. I feel personally that if I were to put my career on hold to be a stay-at-home-mom, I would have worked through all of these classes, homework assignments, and hours of testing for nothing. I want to put my degree that I’ve worked so hard for to use. It feels great to actually be active in a career that utilizes my skills earned from that degree.

#3. My Children’s Benefit- My child has definitely thrived being away from me. Marek has been between my grandmothers house, and daycare since he was just 3 1/2 weeks old. Exposing him to various different people and environments has been undoubtedly one of the best things for his development. He’s very socially advanced and has a vocabulary that lots of children don’t accomplish by the age of 4. He can hold an intelligent conversation with any adult, and that makes me so proud. They always say that “it takes a village” to raise a child. I’m extremely blessed with my village for helping me with Marek. (Auntie Shelley, Grandma, Mom & Dad, Brian, Kristi & Rodney, Katie and Cory, Ruby, and various other friends and family).

I envy stay-at-home moms, I truly do. Brian has offered multiple times for me to stay at home if that’s what I truly want, but at the end of the day I don’t think that it is what would benefit our family the most. There are many moms who stay home with their children who work from home which I think is an awesome option for those who have it. Marketing or small businesses are a great way for moms and dads to get the best of both worlds, but that’s definitely still a lot of work. Daycare can be so expensive, especially in big cities where people are paying almost $2,000 per month in childcare alone. At that point, it doesn’t make sense for many people to go to work when it costs them more than what they make per month to have someone watch their kids.

If nothing else I am sure of this though- we as moms need to stop thinking less of other moms because of their decisions. The “mom community” is a pretty cut-throat place to be, everyone is passing judgement and voicing opinions in unsupportive ways. Working moms need to stop bashing stay-at-home moms because they chose another route. Being a stay-at-home mom is NO walk in the park. Have you ever stayed at home with your kids for 7 days straight, week after week? Cleaning a house, grocery shopping, bathing, entertaining, play dates, school runs, etc? It’s exhausting. With that being said, stay-at-home moms need to stop making snide comments about caring more for their kids by spending more time with them. Moms who work outside of the home still have to cook, clean, grocery shop, and spend time with their kids, they just have less time to do so. Just because some moms go to work everyday doesn’t mean that they don’t want to spend more time with their kids, but staying home with them isn’t an option financially for all of us. And this is all okay, ALL OF IT. The mom community needs to become a more supportive place for everyone. This is 2019- lifting each other up as parents is important because y’all, PARENTING IS HARD regardless of whether you’ve taken the daily route of staying home or leaving for work.


Until next time,






2018- A Recap

WOW. What a year, y’all! This was BY FAR the busiest year I’ve ever experienced. It was full of laughter, friends, family, and wonderful times. With all of these were of course a few tears and low points as well. Since we are more of a “glass half full” family, we will focus on our high points and accomplishments this year.

Marek turned 4 (and is about to turn 5). WHERE DID MY BABY GO!? We enjoyed his batman themed birthday party.


Brian turned 30. Oh sorry! He turned 29, again…


Jayce turned 6. He requested this awesome camping themed birthday party and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.


Couples shower. This one was slightly rowdy but we had a fun time.


Bachelorette/Bachelor weekend. Yet another rowdy weekend…


Year round classes. There are no photos of this due to the fact that I would have been crying the entire time. I was planning all of these parties and fun weekends while working full time, being a mom, and going to school. It was extremely overwhelming but looking back I’m happy I finished the classes that I did.

First day of Pre-school and 1st grade!


Wedding. (Photos all by Sarah Papes Photography)


Honeymoon in Nashville.


Our triplet nieces turned 3!


and then we had Thanksgiving which we hosted at our house for the first year ever, and 4 Christmas celebrations to make it to.

There was SO MUCH going on this year that this year I really look forward to not doing much of anything except hanging out and relaxing on the weekends. Aside from the boys birthday parties we aren’t planning on any obligations other than trying to teach me how to water ski on the lake.

So cheers to a wonderful (and relaxing) 2019!



NYE 2018!

Our New Year’s Eve was spent much like many other parents on New Year’s Eve… at home with the kids. Now that the boys are a little older, we wanted to make the night a little fun for them too so we invited my friend and her daughter over to play some games and enjoy the ball drop!

We decided to go with a nacho platter, some spinach dip, and a few other hors d’oeuvres for dinner. (Mostly because I couldn’t muster the energy to prepare yet another meal in 2018.) But for real, I’ve done enough dishes for 2018.


Moving on! After some Pinterest searching, I found one of my new favorite games and activities ever. It was definitely something for the kids, but might end up being something for myself from now on. Drum roll please…


Such a simple and cheap way to have fun and entertain your kids. I spent $8 in glow sticks from the dollar store, and $6 on 6 soda pop two liters. Here’s what you do-


Empty out 6 two liters and strip off their labels. (I bought pop on sale for $1 a piece at our local grocery store. So this part can be cheap enough if you shop the right soda.)

For the rest of it I forgot to take pictures. FAIL. But once it gets dark you crack the glow sticks and put a bunch of them in each bottle. Then you grab either a see-through hamster ball and fill that with glow sticks as well, or take a regular dodgeball (or any ball really), and set up your bowling alley.

For us, I also bought two really big glow sticks to line up the lane for the kids so they knew the line to bowl down better.

Here are some pretty low quality photos of a pretty high quality time with the glow in the dark bowling being executed.


All three of the kids really enjoyed this part and they actually were entertained for quite a while until they picked up the big glow sticks and started using them as weapons. As a mother of two boys I’m not sure why I would have expected anything different. Anyhow, moving on…

I also bought stuff for an ice cream sundae bar.


Simple, easy, and cheap. Nothing like a little bit of a sugar buzz while you’re waiting for the ball to drop.

Which leads me to my next portion of our night: The ball drop.

So y’all are crazy if you think I let my kids stay up to watch the actual ball drop. I pulled up the 2018 ball drop from last year on my laptop and played that for 5 minutes which started right at the 59 second countdown and continued on with the fun music and celebration afterward. The kids watched that (only slightly understanding what was going on), and then Brian got down with the kids and helped pull the strings for the poppers we had. (Also a dollar store buy. Another great $1.50 investment).


Then they got out their party horns to make as much noise as possible before we changed them into their jammies, brushed their teeth, and put them to bed.



& to be completely honest with you, Brian, Tay, and I hardly made it to midnight. We were so pooped after all that fun.

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe night with their New Year’s Eve plans!

Tune in Tuesday for a 2018 reflection and some of our favorite highlights of the year.

Until next time,



Favorite Things Friday- Wedding Cake Edition!

Yes, yet ANOTHER wedding post. I’m apologizing in advance, SORRY!

With that being said- OUR WEDDING CAKE WAS MY FAVORITE CAKE OF ALL TIME. This includes both categories of looks/presentation AND taste. Our cake was made by Jennifer Dontz from Manistee, MI. She owns Sugar Delites, and let me tell you what- that cake was an absolute delight.

Sarah Papes Photography

For our wedding cake we ended up going with a white cake with a chocolate filling in the center. It’s hard choosing a cake flavor for your wedding because you have the stress of choosing something that almost everyone will like. I wanted raspberry filling, but Brian doesn’t like raspberry, and it turns out that a large amount of people coming didn’t care for it much either. I was so happy with how it turned out and little bit that I was able to eat, or have so graciously shoved in my mouth (thanks Brian), was DELICIOUS. This was definitely not your grocery store birthday cake.

And yes, our flowers on the cake were real! Our florist Briann at Field of Dreams out of Bear Lake, MI worked along side Jennifer to ensure that the flowers on the cake were fresh, and matched the other floral arrangements from our bouquets and centerpieces.

The cake topper matched so nicely with our boho-themed wedding cake being that it was so simple yet beautiful. I made a previous post about the cake topper and where I ordered it from (yes of course it was on Etsy!)

Sarah Papes Photography
Sarah Papes Photography

The end result? I couldn’t have been more happy with how our beautiful cake turned out. Jennifer took the picture that I had shown her from Pinterest and she made it all our own. She really outdid herself on the cake, and Briann really outdid herself with the floral arrangements for it. It was everything I wanted, simple yet beautiful.

Tips for choosing your wedding cake-

  • Go in with a picture or two. If you have too many you might get a mix of all of them and not what you’re looking for.
  • Go in with an open mind as far as choosing the flavor. I knew I didn’t want chocolate, but yellow cake is my favorite. After talking with Jennifer, she said that she doesn’t recommend yellow because it doesn’t hold or store well. The white cake tasted better than any white cake I’ve had before and it went perfectly with the filling!
  • Decide your price range before going in. I knew that having a cake big enough to feed almost 200 people wasn’t going to be cheap. I also knew that fresh flowers were going to be more expensive, but I think they tied the look off just perfectly. We had discussed our cake budget with our baker before even meeting in person. This definitely helped her find us what we were looking for.

Every wedding post has me wishing I could relive this day over and over again. But since I can’t, I’m going to head out and enjoy my long weekend away from work!

We will catch up next week with a New Year recap! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Until then,




Wedding Post! The perfect songs for our first dances

One of the biggest “stressers” that I had while planning our wedding was the first dance with each other, and the dances with B’s mom and my dad. Since we were engaged for a year and a half we had LOTS OF TIME to change our minds and weigh our options. For the longest time Brian and I had decided on this song by Drake White, but then something just didn’t feel right about it. In the end we decided on the song that I kept coming back to- With You I Am, by Cody Johnson. And now I can’t stop crying for 3 minutes and 41 seconds whenever I listen to it.

Sarah Papes Photography catching all of my favorite moments from my favorite day ever.
Sarah Papes Photography

Now for the daddy-daughter dance it was even more difficult. My dad is a horse of a different color if you will. (Did you catch my Wizard of Oz reference? No? Okay. Moving on).

I tried every song in the book. I researched father/daughter wedding dance songs and gave my dad every option I could possibly find or think of:

I loved her first, Stealing Cinderella, Butterfly Kisses, My Girl, Daddy’s Little Girl, etc. The list went on for MONTHS, I kid you not. Every time I would play or suggest a song he would either make a face, or tell me “that song sucks”. Then it hit me: When Marek was a baby I used to play Johnny Cash’s 2002 cover album, specifically the cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to put him to sleep. HOW PERFECT. Dad loves Johnny Cash. Then after thinking over the lyrics to that song, there hasn’t been a better one that crossed my way.

Next time you get a second to listen to that song, really listen to and understand the lyrics. The reason this song really speaks to the relationship that my dad and I have requires a slight backstory. In high school I really gave my parents a run for their money. I got caught up with the wrong crowd, rebelled at all cost, and dated all the wrong people just to spite them. My dad really fought hard to get me on the straight and narrow, and even through my unexpected pregnancy with Marek at age 18, they did quite literally lay themselves over my troubled waters to get me to where I am today.

Our dance was one of the most emotional 4 minutes of my entire life. We laughed, cried, and then eventually just sang along with the song to avoid crying in front of almost 200 of our closest family and friends.


Sarah Papes Photography

The mother son song was actually more difficult than the daddy daughter- if you can actually believe that or not. Brian’s brother was married in December of 2010 and his brother and mom danced to the “Simple Man” cover by Shinedown. Other than that, there aren’t really many mother son songs. If there are any musicians out there reading this, we are requesting a better selection. Take that as an assignment of some sort. In the end, they decided upon “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran. The dance was beautiful, the song was beautiful, and our photographer captured the entire moment so beautifully.


Tell me those don’t just tug your heart strings!

At the end of the night, I was so happy with how those dances turned out. I’m even happier knowing that our photographer Sarah Papes Photography did a BOMB job capturing not just the photo, but also the raw emotion in these precious moments.

My best advice to anyone picking out songs for their first dances, you ask? Make sure that the songs mean something to you. Even if it’s a song that doesn’t make sense to everyone else, use it. Nobody has to understand the meaning except the two of you, whether it be your husband/wife, mom or dad. You won’t regret picking the one that means the most.

Thanks for reading, and happy Thursday!



Christmas 2k18 Recap

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

“Unto you is born this day a savior which is Christ the Lord”

I’m sure as many of you know, Christmas in a blended family is more like a marathon. So many houses to hit in so little time. Some years Christmas doesn’t fall on a day that we have the boys and we have to do Christmas either the weekend before or after, but this year we were lucky enough to have them on Christmas! Although of course to the kids it doesn’t make a difference which day we open gifts and celebrate, it’s fun no matter what the date is.

This year we had four Christmas celebrations. We did our annual Pendrick cousin Christmas cookie weekend at my brother and sister in laws house on the 8th. This weekend however, we had Brian’s parents, my parents, and our house Christmas morning of course.

This year we got the boys some fun joint gifts and some really fun practical things. A few big things consisted of their TV for their shared room, their ukuleles, and the bean bags they got from Grammy. They also got some really fun books, a few board games, some movies, and some cool retro toys like the rock em’ sock em’ boxing game. The boys have this new obsession with wanting a “camping” themed bedroom so Santa brought Jayce some fun camping sheets and a new comforter! (Scored that on Amazon for half price!)

I definitely dropped the ball this year with the Christmas cards- by the time I realized I hadn’t ordered any yet it was December 19th and I was finishing my final exams for my last ever winter semester of college. There was no way I was going to get those delivered and sent out before Christmas, so this year we just chalked it up to a big ole “whoops” and said “we’ll catch those next year”.

I’ll share a few pictures from our Christmas weekend- also shout out to those moms out there who shared their awesome Christmas gift guides, those things were life savers this year.

Cousin Christmas at Grammys house! Jayce, Zoey, Charlie, Khloe, Aubree, Marek, and Wyatt.
Myself, Mommy dearest, and Ruby.
Catching a picture where everyone is smiling is harder than it looks.
Things may not have been calm, but they sure were bright.

It was a busy season, and honestly I’m so sad the holidays are coming to an end. I’ve had a nice break off from work and enjoyed every second of being a “stay at home mom” for a few days. Tomorrow is back to work for a few days before our New Years Eve festivities at home with the kids, followed by a week of preparing everyone for back to school and the regular routine.

Hoping everyone had joyous holidays followed by some calm, and peace.

Until next time,


Em & Family