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    Posted May 30, 2014 by
    San Jose, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your modern family

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    You. Me. Us.


    Almost exactly 5 years ago, I was sitting at a weekly brunch with my friends and family. This was an average weekly brunch and there were about 16 of us. I received a text (which I rarely check during our brunches) and it simply asked if I was on the road already. My response was: “Not yet, getting ready to leave. Conversation is energized can you guess what they're talking about?” The reply was so simply and perfect, that it would become the map for my future: “You. Me. Us.” My breath was taken away. Those three words had never held so much power. Less than 30 minutes later, my little car was loaded for a 2 day jaunt and my mom was riding shotgun. We had our country music turned on, the mood was so light and fun, and I felt like everything was just as it should be.
    My name is Tina. The woman that I had met in April (2 months ago) through an online dating service lived 550 miles from me. We had decided it was time to meet in person. The letters, texts, and phone calls had brought us so close so fast that we could not hold out any longer. Of course, our new relationship, whatever it may turn out to be, would affect so many more people than just us, so we chose our first meeting on very neutral ground, in public, with a 4 hour window. I drove to Los Angeles and spent the night with family (another reason my mom was along for the ride, my family is close). On the day of our meeting, I now only had 1.5 hours to drive, but Tami had 5 hours to drive. It was worth it. From the word "Hello", it was good. The food, the conversation, the jokes and giggles were all easy and natural. We walked, checked out a local craft fair, sat and talked some more, and then realized our time was running short. I walked her to her car; we chatted a bit more and then tried to find a date that we could see each other again. It was still so easy and natural. We decided we could extend out meeting by 30 more minutes. One drink at Starbucks, and dash through our schedules and a date was determined. In 3 weeks, I would drive to her town. One more quick and amazing kiss, a firm hug, and she was on her way home.
    She could not adjust the timing too much; at the end of her 5 hours return drive home, she would be picking up her 4 children from her ex-husband. Her schedule revolved around 2 boys, 2 girls, an ex-husband, her father who was also her number one babysitter and best friend, a retail job, and anything else life tossed in her direction. And now she made time for me.
    I drove back to L.A., tried to calm my excitement and overwhelming happiness before I met up with my family. My mom, aunt, uncle, and cousin were waiting to hear how it had gone. I half expected warnings and nay-sayers, but what I received was nothing but support, love, praise and a celebration equal to my own. Again, everything was so easy and natural. Everyone felt like we were all right where we were supposed to be. The drive home that mid-June was awesome.
    The 3 weeks flew by and it was early July. I left Las Vegas and made my way to San Jose. I pulled up in front of her house and texted that I was there. I was nervous, but not because I was about to see Tami again, because I was seconds from meeting the 4 most important people in her life, her kids. She walked out and we hugged. She asked me how I was doing and I think I said I was fine. She escorted me into their home. One little man walked right up to me with a huge smile and said "Hello". Another little man was squirming his way under the end table. One little blond girl came over at her mother's bidding, smile gently and said "Hello". I knelt down sensing her hesitation and I informed her (Kaitlyn, the 10 year old daughter) that we had the same middle name, Renee. She touched my face, smiled bigger, and walked away. In walks the 11 year old daughter, "Oh, hi. You must be Tina." Ok, 3 greetings down, 1 to go. I think I said something like ‘there was a very cute young man hiding under a table’. He began to giggle. I asked if he thought he might come out and shake my hand. He was headed my way in seconds. He asked what shaking hands was, I showed him how young men should introduce themselves, and we were good from there.
    The 6 of us went to a neighborhood restaurant. They told stories and asked questions. I had been prepared ahead of time that 2 of the children were on the autism spectrum. I was curious as to what that meant, and half way through lunch, I knew what that meant...they are even cuter and more loving than expected. We left lunch as a pretty close knit bunch. We visited a park, and the 2 who I thought would take longer to connect with were already asking me to push them on the swings. Both boys were already holding my hands and showing me the ducks at the park. The oldest was telling me about summer plans and how she was starting middle school very soon. Tami and I just kept exchanging glances and smiles. The six of us interacted like we had known each other for years. Everything was so easy and natural.
    One more stop on our day together, the movies. There was a small discussion about who would sit next to me, but "Mom" won that one with very little dispute. Ryan (5) was happy to be the one to lead us down our seating row. Josh (6) instinctively sat next to his bother. Abbie (11) settled in next to Josh and then Kaitlyn was next to Tami and I had the aisle seat. These kids were amazing. There was no whining, no arguing, no ‘I wants’, just happy, cared for, comfortable kids.
    The movie ended and we talked about funny jokes, the best characters, and the silly sabertoothed-squirrel with his nut. Then it was time to take the kids to their dad's place for the weekend. Tami and I had another 2 days to learn more about each other and I was on my way home.
    For 6 months, we used Skype, text, phones, and e-mail. The kids told me about their days, their classes, they told me good night too. Tami and I would talk like we had known each other for our whole lives. I drove over for long weekends once or twice a month. Tami came to Vegas as often as possible. Even with the distance, jobs, schools, life, and stuff, everything always felt easy and natural.
    Almost 6 months to the day since we had met in person, I packed up my little car and I moved to San Jose. Tami and the kids will need to stay in that area until the youngest graduates, so that is where I will be too. I expected there to be adjustments, and complaints; I was ready for arguments and even tantrums; I moved in and it was like I had always been there. Easy, Natural.
    In five years, we have grown as a family. Tami and I were legally married, Tami's father passed away, our kids continue to discover who they are and what they can do, we have moved houses twice, adopted a dog, and we have had 3 surgeries. We have gone on vacations, overcome obstacles, and learned from each other daily. Our family has a mom and a step-mom in one home, a dad, a step-mom and twin babies in another home, the kids have 4 sets of grandparents, and tons of other family. We have brilliance, we have special needs, and we have differences galore right here in our very own home, but we also have safety, love, support, second chances, and fun. We have friends that we visit and that visit us. We have soccer, baseball, roller hockey, orchestra, and more.
    My family knows that there are good and bad days (but we choose the good days), we know that there are good and bad people (we try to be the good people), and we are well aware that life is not easy, but what makes my family special is that we always stick together and we always have love and support.

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