Crazy Blended Family Holidays: What’s a Stepmom to Do?

huff-po-christmaIn nuclear families, Christmas can be very hectic. There’s grandparents and extended family to visit and gatherings galore. If you have a blended family, let’s face it. Holidays can all out suck. The delicate schedule gets out of whack. The kids get shuffled and shuttled back and forth more than normal. Even parents can become selfish and accusing. Can you say cray cray?

Often times, stepmoms can get caught up in the middle of the whirlwind. But, hey, relax. The good news is there are still some things you can focus on to keep the season merry and bright without losing your jingle bells.

Focus on the season rather than the day. So much emphasis is placed upon the magical December 24th and 25th. However, if you’re like us, our Christmas is celebrated every other year on December 26th and the world does not end. The season of the holidays is a whole month so get out and enjoy it with the kids whenever you get the chance.

Don’t obsess with when but focus more on how. How to make it memorable. How to make it special for your family. With social media, it is easier than ever to find cool events and seasonal happenings. Last year, we took the boys to a woodworking toy making shop where we learned the entire process of how a limb off of a tree becomes a toy.

Focus on giving to others. For several years, my daughter and I have gotten involved with our local church to assist families in need. Gifts are donated through angel trees and we help them shop, wrap and load up their gifts to take home to their family on a designated night.

Last year, I took the money we set aside for my gifts and donated it to a soldier and his family through Vet Tix. “Vet Tix provides tickets to events which reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories and encourage service members and veterans to stay engaged with local communities and American life.” My husband wrapped the receipt as my gift, placed it under the tree and when we opened presents, I shared the story of the soldier we were helping. There is nothing better to take the focus off of the stress and ourselves like giving to others.

Focus on making new traditions unique to your family. Since we’ve moved into our neighborhood, we’ve tried to make little gifts for our close neighbors and friends and we give them out as a family every year.

For instance, one year I wrapped a can of soda and bag of microwave popcorn in a gift bag and attached a little message card to it that said Pop pop fizz fizz oh what a good neighbor you is. Last year, we decided to make homemade healthy baked dog treats and give them to our neighborhood dog owners.

Instead of having to decorate the tree on a specific day, we always wait and decorate the tree together. Each of our kids has special ornaments that they love to hang on the tree themselves. That way, now matter how the schedule falls, they still feel a part of the celebration of the season.

Focus on the reason for the season. The holidays can mean different things to different families. Christmas for us is a time to reflect on what we value and what we hold most dear and a time to remember the love born on Christmas. What ever makes this season special for your family is what’s important.

We have a special snow white stocking that hangs over the fireplace in front of the rest. All during the season, we write down special things and place it inside its soft shimmery folds. We write things that we are thankful for in each other or maybe something we have seen the other do and we are proud of them, or something that has touched our heart. When we celebrate our Christmas, we read them and try to guess who wrote it or who it’s about. It is one of my favorite times we have together!

I’ve shared about some of our holiday fun and ideas on how to keep the crazy to a minimum. However, there is one thing that should not be the focus. Don’t focus on the negative.  It’s toxic and unhealthy. The holidays with stepfamilies are already complicated so don’t poison it by focusing on the Grinches who would love to steal your Christmas. Reflect on what you value and what you hold most dear, the love that you have for each other.

Do You Bring Blessings or Blow Horns?

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About a week and a half ago, last Tuesday, I was driving to work.  I was talking to my mom as I often do just like any other day.  My mind was filled with memories, Christmas lists, money worries etc……    I noticed a little ways up the road, a woman coming across a bridge up ahead.  Now, because of TV movies and watching too much of the news, I began to slow down my 75mph speed as a precaution in case this was someone who thought it might be fun to throw something off the bridge onto the cars below.  It all happened in a matter of seconds.  This woman had decided that she no longer wanted to live, came over the side and jumped off of that bridge, landing in front of my car on the busy interstate!

I swerved, screaming, trying to articulate to my mom what just happened.  I pulled over a little ways from the scene just to be safe and began jogging back to this nightmare that had just unfolded in my lane in front of me!  A small group had already gathered around her and I was surprised to see that the woman had already re-gained consciousness (after seeing her land like a rag doll and unconscious).  She was trying to fight us to get up while bleeding on the pavement.  I tried to soothe her, telling her that help was coming and that she was hurt.  I asked her if there was any phone numbers I could take down and call for her but she said she did not have anybody.  The paramedics and officers arrived.  They could not believe that this woman was not run over and kept saying it.  They allowed her to sit up as they examined her injured leg and face.  She is going to be just fine with just a scraped up face and broken leg!  As I was standing with the only other witness that cared enough to stop, a kind sweet faced lady on the way to pick up her daughter, we began talking of what we saw.  She did not see the woman jump like I did, only something in the road.  As I was trying to swerve, slow down and pull over she was trying to stop traffic that just kept driving around the woman and blowing the horn.  We could not believe how many just drove by blowing the horn and kept going!

On the morning of Christmas eve, my husband and I took our 3 kids to eat a late breakfast.  I mentioned that there was an elderly man eating alone and how sad that was at Christmas when the place was full of families.  Teen could not even enjoy her food because of it and wanted to go over and ask him to join us but is very shy about such things.  My husband and I wanted to as well but we made excuses such as he probably wanted to be alone or that he probably had a house full of family and wanted some time alone to enjoy his paper.  With a determined look, she went over to the man, wished him a Merry Christmas, and told him there was plenty of room at our table.  He joyfully accepted and for the next hour we were all entertained with stories of this gentleman’s life.  He introduced himself as Jim O’Neal, the “84 yr old Black Irishman”.  He insisted that he pay for our meal but my husband had gladly already paid for his.  We all left the restaurant that morning feeling happy and blessed.

These events got me to thinking about how we live our lives.  Do we stop our hectic pace and self-absorbancy and help those in need or do we just drive by and blow the horn?  Do we go the extra mile to bring a smile to someone’s face or do we make excuses to ease our conscious so we feel better about not going out of our comfort zone?

Christians, myself included, are commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  Let’s not also forget the golden rule to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).  There is verse after verse where we are to show Christ’s love through serving and loving others.  However, our selfish nature tends to fight with that kind of selfless love.  For this upcoming new year my prayer is that I allow God to continue to use me to bless those around me.  I pray that my children will continue to live out a life of serving God by being kind and loving others and that my husband and I can be an example of that love.  Who knows?  Maybe if we step up and go that extra mile there will be more people who don’t feel so empty and alone enough to jump off a bridge and instead end up sharing stories over a meal with new friends.

Are you someone that in this new year brings blessings or blows horns?

Merry CHRISTmas

Nativity

Merry Christmas Eve!  Have you ever noticed how much more accepted it is to mention God in society today but you mention the name of Jesus and the mood quickly changes?  In a book I read written by a celebrity, she kept saying “I pray to the god of my understanding”.  That is what is so sad! It’s an accepted new age belief that “god is everything and everything is god”.  Society has become so focused on not offending others that, to me, they have nothing to believe in or stand for.  I feel that this has caused so many to try so hard to take Christ out of Christmas in so many ways. To me though, the joke is on them because the harder they try the more they are brought back to Jesus.  It’s like the old saying that the more you try not to think about something the more you think about it.  Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus.  The two have become ingrainded over centuries.   You can’t think Christmas without thinking about Christ, even if you are trying to leave Him out.  I encourage you this Christmas to seek Jesus.  If you are unsure or doubting who He is start with More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell.  He was an atheist who set out to prove that Jesus was just a man. You will seek me and

find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.  Seek Him! He will give you something to believe in, something to stand for…

Also something interesting..Jesus was in a blended family…please read my previous blog post http://blendermom.me/jesus-was-from-a-blended-family a msg I copied from Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Merry Christmas blessings from my family to yours.

TRADITIONS

Christmas is so close it’s freakin scary!  If you are like most families (blended or not) finances are tight and this can be a stressful time.  If you throw in parenting times over the Holidays and money trouble you have a “Lord help me just make it til New Years” stressful time!  In thinking about Christmas in our blender I thought I would share how important I think traditions are and especially in a blended family.  The other parents of 2 of our children were on board with dividing time fairly between us and them every other Christmas.  We felt that both parents deserved the right to be able to have their child at Christmas.  One of them, however felt that they had a right to have their child every Christmas.  Unfortunately, we had to go to court and ask a judge for every other Christmas.  During the hearing, we were asked what traditions do we have in celebrating.  It was sad because we had not as of yet had the chance to really form any because of the “control monster” that had stepped in and limited our Holiday time. (click here for previous post about this monster: http://blendermom.me/the-control-monster )  It got me to thinking though how traditions really help to ground and solidify blended families.  It doesn’t have to be big expensive things.  It can be as simple as doing an advent candle wreath or read a specific story or watch a specific movie while stringing popcorn.  Doing these things give the kids something to look forward to and something they can count on which gives them stability.  Some examples for us is that we always decorate a gingerbread house and place it on our dining room table for display.  We always go pick out a tree together and we always decorate it as a family.  We have special ornaments that each child loves or made and they get to always hang those on the tree first. We have a white column in our dining area that I always wrap red ribbon around and we all call it the candy cane north pole.  The key word is “always”.  The kids can count on what you are going to do.  Even though it seems small that can make them feel more safe and secure, to always be able to count on those traditions.  You should also think about more traditions that you can do throughout the year.  We always have pizza or fastfood on Friday nights and eat it in front of the TV while watching a movie.  We do a devotional reading with the kids and talk about it as a family. ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/1475155050/?ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_9E2uqb177D1BM Proverbs For Kids is a great book and what we are currently reading.)  We always put the boys to bed at the same time and have them say goodnight prayers every time.  What I am saying is traditions do not have to be some complicated ritual!  Make Sunday night taco night every week.  By the way, the judge did rule in our favor and we now have all three children every other Christmas.  We miss them during the off years but that’s what we as parents do, we make sacrifices.  Remember, it’s not their fault their parents got divorced.  They have just as much right to love and form traditions with the other parent as they do with you.  I personally do not ever want my kids to look at me and say “I don’t have a relationship with my father/mother because of you!” If you are dealing with the other parent who really is being mean and spiteful you can look at it as giving them the rope and let them hang themselves if they want to. 

Traditions are important in families and what better time to start one is at Christmas!  Remember,  “Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.”  Try to reach your child’s heart this Christmas.