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  • Writer's pictureLauren A. Merritt

The Stepmom Chronicles: Cleanup on Aisle Five!

“Can you please write a blog about this?!”

It was a Tuesday evening at the dinner table and our yellow lab, Piper, had just paraded through the dining room with a stylish streak of blue paint across the fur on her back.

My stepdaughter, Ella, saw the opportunity for a blog post.

It all started when I had to work late to give a guardianship presentation.

“Don’t wait for me for dinner. I don’t know what time I’ll be home,” I told my husband, Matt.

I arrived home about 7:15 PM expecting a clean kitchen and quiet kiddos propped on the couch in pjs with their phones.

A girl can dream right?!

Bless his heart, what I got was a husband who thoughtfully timed dinner prep so he could throw the food on the grill when I got home.

Turkey roast, zucchini, and a concoction of sauces and spices spanned the kitchen counter, alongside a colorful assortment of beads, string, and scissors abandoned by their artist.

I found the artist, 9-year-old Reagan, painting a “Best Teacher Ever” sign at the kitchen table. Bottles of paint all colors of the rainbow were still open. I was relieved to see Matt had at least prepped the table with our “art” tablecloth.

Matt put the food on the grill while I changed and the artist started cleaning her studio.

I returned to the kitchen to find the art supplies still plentiful and the artist silently scrubbing the rug under the kitchen table, avoiding eye contact.

Her sponge was soaked with the blue paint splattered across the rug. Tears welled in her eyes.

“Oh boy,” I whispered to myself.

“It’s ok, Reagy! We need a new rug anyway!” I mustered cheerfully.

The cleanup proved fruitless as Matt walked in with our dinner, fresh off the grill.

“So this is what happens when you leave the husband unsupervised with the children!” I joked.

Dinner that night was delicious. By the time Piper strolled through with her blue streak evidence from the Best Teacher Ever crime scene, everyone was able to laugh.

I’ve still got much to learn about this stepmom gig. Sometimes it gets messy- quite literally. I’m still getting used to that. But things can be replaced- our family cannot be, a friend reminded me that night.

This past Friday was my mom’s birthday. It’s the third birthday she’s celebrated in heaven. I know I made plenty of messes as a child. And she loved me through every one of them.

Although she’s not here to guide me through this new stepmom role, I’m grateful for all the childhood memories and lessons with her I have to pull from.

Loss is a tragic, inevitable part of all our lives. My mom died in an accident before I was practicing probate law. I remember feeling angry that we had legal avenues to navigate when our grief was still so crippling. It felt unfair.

When I walk families through the probate process today, I do my best to clear away the probate “mess” for them, so they can focus on themselves and their families. Sometimes just having direction about the next steps brings tremendous relief.

Are you looking for direction after a death in the family? I’ve created a free report just for you.

Do you have questions about probate?

Call our office to schedule your consultation today. (850) 741-2999 or email me with questions at

Lauren A. Merritt, P.A.

111 S. De Villiers Street, Ste. B

Pensacola, FL 32502

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