This feature is my attempt at the "Pay It Forward Craft Exchange" for more information, click here. Look forward to one more interview that will also be posted today, as well as Jamie's feature!
Part One: The Wait
It was a really hot day at Kelly's pool. My sisters Stephanie, Lucy and I went ahead and helped ourselves to the water, even though Kelly was no where in sight. Kelly's husband Grant was a formidable host, offering us water in a pitcher and an updated count-down to when Kelly would be arriving.
"She is at my sister's house." Said Grant, offering no other explanation.
When Kelly arrived we all cheered and ate the tortilla chips and hummus that she offered.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, I was with Grant's sister."
This sister better be worth the hold up I thought to myself. Moments later as I was busy talking to Kelly about our latest fertility schemes, a cute, little, brunette appeared at the pool.
"Hi. I am Mandee. Grant's sister." Adorable. Totally worth the hold up.
We only chatted for a few moments--Mandee was out running errands--but this week, she has so graciously let me ask the questions she didn't have time to answer that day at the pool.
Like, what are "bonus children?"
Part Two: The Bonus
"I hate the word 'step' so I like to say that I have two "bonus children" from [my husband's] first marriage." Add to the bonus children (a son 16 and a daughter 13), three more boys (5,3, and barely-turned one) plus a "super husband" who is eight short years older than Mandee.
Mandee seems to be handling the 'bonus mom' business with confidence. She suggests reading up on blended families before the arrangement begins. "Don't be afraid to see a counselor as a family . . . it can help so much." She adds, "Know that it is really hard, even when you get along really well pre-marriage."
Mandee's childhood taught her well about the boy species. She has five brothers, three of which are "famous." Marcus hosts the 94.9 The Blaze morning show here in Utah (he used to host 107.5 with Chimichunga.) Grant is married to Mz. Kelly McCaleb and has his own blog complete with loyal group of readers in Australia. And Mikey's local band, The Sugarland Run did a cover of the song "In the Hollow of Thy Hand" featured on the soundtrack to the RM.)
It was with these brothers that Mandee grew up playing GI Joe until the street lights came on around the family's cul-de-sac in Bakersfield, California.
"I was Scarlett." Says Mandee who also adds that she has a little sister "who I love and adore."
Part Three-The Transplant
A "California transplant," Mandee now lives here in Utah, but she admits that her heart still belongs in the golden state.
"I so miss California. My husband and I talk about moving back there all of the time! Someday. Maybe."
Mandee came to the Promise Land via UVSC and strutted herself on the famous Hall of Flags runway. She had the perennial job at Brick Oven, which ended after she took a job with Zales Jewelers. This was a significant life change for Mandee.
"Something about selling diamonds forces you to mature."
With diamonds on the brain, Mandee became engaged, but called it all off only two months before the wedding.
"I kept wishing he would break up with me." She warns single ladies. "One night we got into a huge argument and I saw it as a prime opportunity to justifiably end our relationship. And I finally felt at peace. It was an answer to many prayers."
Part Four-The Revelation
Interestingly, had that prayer not been answered, Mandee wouldn't have the "super" husband that she has today. Which means no "bonus children'"or a house full of children. And therefore wouldn't have needed a sizable house in Utah, down the street from Kelly and Grant. Making it impossible for me to have met her while waiting around on that lazy, hot summer's day at the pool.
And let me say again, it was worth the wait.
By-the-way, in what is sorta becoming a theme today, Mandee is holding her best friend's newly adopted baby in the picture above. And she wishes her mother would've named her Amanda. And you can read more about her at her delightful blog For the Love.