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.

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A Special Place-Teen Room Makeovers For Our Kids

When my husband and I got married back in 2008, we were living in the house I had been in since 1998. It was a small 1000 sq ft home with one bathroom and when we combined our families, the five of us were a bit crowded. We both wanted to move and start fresh and after a lot of hard work and nearly a year of searching and trying to sell my house, we moved into what we hope will be our forever home in July of 2010.

I love our house! Growing up as a preacher’s kid, we moved a lot to plant or rebuild churches. I never got to put down roots, so it was my dream to give my children what I didn’t have, raising them in a nice suburban country neighborhood where they could ride their bikes and have other kids to play with and we have been so blessed. In fact, our yard has typically become the gathering place for the neighborhood boys.

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We have slowly made our house a home. Over the summer, we decided to surprise and redo all of our children’s bedrooms while they were gone on summer vacation with their other parent! Keep in mind, I am not one of those brilliant decorating bloggers whose home looks like the completed project at the end of a HGTV episode. However, I wanted to share what we did.

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Our daughter, Meredith, was the first to go on vacation with her dad and his family. She is starting her senior year and is also duel enrolled in college. She spends a lot of time doing homework and studying in her room. Her walls were already a pale aqua and comforter set was yellow and gray.

I got my inspiration and ideas for the canopy from Cottage Instincts. We took the bed that I had since childhood and painted it black to match her tall dresser. I found a black TV stand on Craigslist for $10 and made a cushion for it. We turned her desk in to a dressing table (she never used it, preferring to study on her bed), added a little wall art and a lamp and we were done (at least for now).

 

Our youngest son was next to go on summer vacation with his dad. I have written about Luke often and his brain condition, Chiari Malformation. Because of his condition as well as the fact that I homeschool him, he spends a lot of time in his room. He is really into college basketball and his favorite team is NC State, so we decided to give him a red, black and white Wolfpack room.

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I want to give a BIG shout out to my amazing husband. He made the trophy case, painted Luke’s old desk, and the stripes on the walls. The inspiration for the trophy case came from Shanty 2 Chic. We changed out the antique brass handles for modern ones on his long dresser and framed his posters and certificates/awards.

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Our oldest son was the last to go on vacation with his mom. He will be turning 14 soon and loves duck camo. The boys once shared a room and we hung their beds from the ceiling to give them more floor space and he wanted to keep his bed that way. We painted three of his walls a camo khaki color and the 4th wall, a deep burnt orange.

We took my old dresser that went with the bed frame from Meredith’s room, gave it a fresh coat of black paint and added new drawer pulls. We covered his bed and corner shelf with duck blind netting. We framed some awards and photos that were special to him. I found this poem, tweaked it and took one of his favorite photos from our trip to the mountains, had it printed and framed.

 

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lb-graphicsHowever, the biggest highlight of his room was totally inspired by this awesome blog post on Make Them Wonder. Our wonderful neighbors, Brande and Lee, have a fantastic vinyl decal business L & B Graphic and can make anything! (In fact they made this scripture Joshua 24:15 that has been on the wall in our family room since 2010.) I sent her a picture of the shadow duck hunter and they turned out perfectly. We added reed fencing and LED lights.

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I have read so much about making room in your heart and life for your blended family but I believe it is equally important to make a special place for them in the home. A place, inspired by who they are, where they can relax and be themselves. My husband and I felt that there have been some major changes going on in each of their lives for the past couple of years. We wanted to make a space for them that was stable, comfortable no matter what was going on outside of our home in their lives, a true haven.

It doesn’t have to be a complete makeover like we did. Not everyone has enough space to give each of their kids their own room but you can make a special area for them with pillows, special bedding, pictures, etc… The most special, most wonderful part was the look on their precious faces when they got back and walked into their new rooms for the first time. PRICELESS!!

FLAVORFUL FRIDAY!!

I decided I am going to try a few new things for my blog.  I love pinterest and try all kinds of food recipes from my pins.  For Fridays I am going to try and post a recipe I have tried and how it turned out.  School just started in our district and again it is a time for me to come up with creative lunches for teen gal and lil man.  I had found a pin for pizza egg rolls but it did not have instructions, only pictures.  So I found another recipe and tied the two together to come up with my modified version for lunch for the kids the next day.  I would have gotten this blog posted earlier today but my husband took me out on a lunch date.  It has been a beautiful bright sunny day, cloudless sky and we have had a wonderful afternoon.  (smile smile)

Here is step by step for pizza egg rolls:

DSC_2141Here are the ingredients I used including cooking spray, string cheese sticks (I used what I had which was mozzarella and cheddar swirl), pepperoni (I used turkey because I feel it’s healthier and a lot less greasy), egg roll wrappers (found in the produce/bagged salad section of the grocery store), and butter/light olive oil (about a tablespoon each) melted together with a little garlic and onion powder and italian seasoning sprinkled in….You will need to preheat the oven at 375.

DSC_2142I got out a small cup of water and placed near my work surface.  On waxed paper (just my preference) on a wrapper a little closer to the closest corner to me I placed 3 pepperoni on the bottom, a cheese stick on top and 3 more pepperoni on top of the cheese.  I then dipped my fingers and wet all 4 corners of the egg roll wrapper.

DSC_2144I then rolled the closest corner around the mixture as snug as possible.DSC_2145I then tucked the 2 side corners as shown and rolled the rest of the way.  I then placed them on a greased baking sheet and brushed all over the top with the butter/olive oil mixture.  Bake 10-15 minutes then turn them, brush the butter mixture over the top again and bake another 10 -15 minutes until both sides are golden brown and because I didn’t have pizza sauce and I used traditional spaghetti sauce to dip it in.  DSC_2138

It was such an easy recipe the kids loved it, in particularly lil man.  I warmed the pizza egg rolls up the next morning, added a container of sauce, threw in some plain frozen strawberries in another container, a frozen “gogurt”  both thawed  by lunch and he said it was the best lunch ever! (awww I love to hear that)!  Let me know how you like it!

Disclaimer: I used all of the products that were available to me in my local grocery store and did not receive any endorsements for any of the name brands pictured or named in this post.

Knowing, Learning, and Life-Changing

This summer has been very busy for all of us so I have not posted as often.  We have had trips, sports, work, and different parenting schedules.  It’s great because we really do get more extended time together with the kids as a family but it is also more chaotic because we have to figure out who is going where with which parent on this vacation or this trip or that conference.  In June, we had the most amazing vacation with my husband’s family but it was over way too quickly.  We have had a summer filled with swimming, playing, working on multiplication tables, running, volunteering, piano playing, and praying.  We have also had some unexpected conflict changes.  One of the other parents has strayed away from the court order and allowed the child to go back and forth this summer whenever they want (which has been wonderful and less stressful) and we have had another parent to take very precious time away from us causing more stress.  I am actually looking a little bit forward to school starting just to get back in a normal & hopefully stable routine which is good for all of us.  Blended family life is not easy.  It is constantly evolving.  It is hard work.  It is dedicated consistency.  It is at times disappointing.  It is at times overwhelming.  However, to me as a biomom and bonus mom it is the most life-changing love I could have ever known.  First, it is a life-changing love for my husband.  He has shown the deepest compassion and care for me like I have never had before.  He has loved my children with a quiet strength and patience that even they have noticed and responded to with equal love and respect toward him.  Watching him work hard to be a very involved loving father to his son.  Teaching him to grow into the man God created him to be and life changing for me as I support him in every way I can as he does that.  Second, it has been a life-changing love for my bonus son.  Loving him like my own and being patient to let him “catch up” and not pushing him to be part of a family that he was not born in to but to grow in to.  Loving him as he finds his place in this family as well as know that he is just as equally important as me, his dad, or the other two kids.  Third, I have this life-changing love for my children.  I have overcome the guilt of the previous destruction of my relationships to be able to forgive their fathers and forgive myself so that I let go of the “control monster” and encourage a deep loving relationship between my children and their dads.  I am of the mind that the more I encourage time and a closeness with their dad the more they develop a life-changing love for me because they don’t have to choose.  They are free to love us equally.

I have saved the best for last.  Most of all I have developed a deeper life-changing love for my Heavenly Father! He has cultivated all this life-changing love in me after putting this little family together.  Through all of the craziness of this past year I have grown closer to Him each and every day.  Having to depend on Him both emotionally and spiritually, but also physically as well.  I haven’t really shared a lot but a year ago my life was turned upside down when it was invaded with episodes of vertigo.  This spinning vertigo was short lived however it was replaced with severe motion sensitivity and MAV which basically translates to 24/7 rocking swaying dizziness that waxed and waned up numerous times a day until a few months ago.  I had to take a medical leave from my fantastic job because I had to stop driving and take balance/motion therapy to re-train my brain to compensate.  The neuro therapist explained that after the few initial attacks of spinning vertigo, my system did not re-set as most would do because of my long history of migraines.  Instead it made me super sensitive to motion pretty much making me feel like I am on a boat all the time.  With therapy I have slowly regained my balance and now the rocking is very minimal and only noticed occasionally during the day.  I also have migraine medication as well as dizzy medication to take in case of an emergency as needed.  All of this really put me in an unknown place because I have had to completely depend on others. compassion and God I have always been so independent and free spirited and that was all taken away for a long while.  I have prayed and cried out to God and through all of this I have come to know Him better.  I have come to a better understanding that beyond religion God wants me to know Him and that to know him is to love selflessly and to love selflessly is to be compassionate!  Jeremiah 22:16 NLT “He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him.  Isn’t that what it means to know me? says the Lord.”  I have been studying and loving the book of Hosea right now.  Hosea 6:6 NLT ” I want you to show love not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”  God wants my heart, not my religion!  The more I have come to really know God the more I have experienced life-changing love for Him!  The more I have experienced this life-changing love the more compassion He has given me for others far beyond what I have ever known.  Showing compassion to others is completely selfless because it is me doing for others with nothing expected in return other than experiencing joy in being compassionate and it has also helped me get the focus off of me.  This is why I am sharing all of this in this post.  Life is difficult, it is messy and especially so in blended family life and especially if you are also dealing with physical sickness like I have.  It is easy to get trapped in yourself, and in your circumstances.  If you are struggling with these things too I encourage you to start asking yourself how you can be compassionate and how you can demonstrate it to others.  

Fight and Flight…my thoughts on marital conflict

My husband and I recently had a huge fight.  It was the biggest fight we have had since we married 5 years ago.  I’m not saying we don’t ever fight but we typically are over it very quickly and get on with the making up part. (blush blush)  The trouble had been brewing for a short while now but it came to a head and exploded over $30 water bottles. (crazy! right?)  This is the kind of argument that you can’t see your way past your anger and the kind that last a few days and when you’re done you feel exhausted and maybe even a little numb.  Teen in the midst of this came home and feeling the oppressive tension asked me if we were going to get a divorce.  I’m pretty sure that when parents fight that all kids ask that but I feel it is asked on a deeper level by a kid that has already gone through a divorce and remarriage with a parent.   It got me thinking.  There’s such a high percentage of subsequent marriages that don’t last.  Why is that?  My guess is that after going through divorce it is no longer this huge wall that you have never seen what’s on the other side.  It is no longer an unknown.  Most people when facing something big would rather face the known rather than the unknown, at least I would.  In those heated moments when you want to shake them and make them understand, when your inner self is wanting to be “one up” and the winner, you tend to think very irrationally.  (duh!)  Be very honest….how many times have you thought or said or had your partner say, “Well there’s the door if you want to leave!”  During times of stress and fear, scientists say we have a fight or flight response.  We decide to stay and fight or we rapidly run away.  I think in a remarriage/blended family relationship it’s more like fight AND flight.  You get to fighting and decide “I’m strong and independent.  I’ve taken myself out of a bad situation, started over, and I certainly can do it again!”  So you remove yourself from the situation or think about removing yourself from the situation.  In other words, you think about leaving.

I am trying to put my trust in God.  This is what I am trying to do during those times.   There is a marriage page on FB by DaveWillis.org. It’s an awesome site.  I found a picture on his page that sums it up.

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It may seem easy on paper but it is so very hard to do!   Be compassionate, have sympathy toward your spouse, love them without condition, and show humility if at all possible!  1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be like-minded,  be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”  Wow! In researching and praying as I write this post I am so convicted!  How often have I not practiced this verse towards my friends, my family, and most importantly my husband! If you are reading this right now will you stop and pray for me and my husband.  Pray that I will remember this verse when our marriage faces difficulties.  Pray that I will be mindful to put my trust in God because He loves me, He loves my husband and my children, and because He wants us to succeed.  Pray that I will remember He has it all figured out.

My husband and I drove down to the dead end of our street where we could have privacy and worked it out that afternoon.  We started with arguing but ended with really listening to each other.  We then went back to the house and had a family meeting.  We explained to the kids that it was no secret we had been arguing that day but that no one is perfect.  We are all human, we get angry and emotional at times, we don’t always agree and our farts smell sometimes. (Rec’d giggles from them over that last part).  We explained that we love each other very much and that we are not divorcing or splitting up.  We re-assured them of how much we love them and asked if there was anything they wanted to say or any questions they may have. You could see the worry and tension leave their faces and a peace settled in our home.  (Thank you Father God for that amazing peace!)

All of this has made me sure of what I want and don’t want.  I don’t want the fight and flight response!  I just want the FIGHT!  I want to fight for my marriage.  I want to fight for my family.  I want to fight to ensure that our blended home is a happy home.  I want to fight satan and defeat him and not let him have yet another marriage that will destroy lives!  As I hit the publish button, I am praying for you reading this.  I am praying for you to show forgiveness and grace in your marriage and I am praying for that peace that passes all understanding that only comes from God.

Jesus was from a blended family.

Sermon from 1995 by Jeremiah Wright Jr on blended families:

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A Home Where God is Honored

I submit to you that not only does God have a lot to say on this subject of blended families, but that among the first things God says is, “Yes, I understand because my Son was part of such a family. I have a whole lot to say about such families. Look at the home where I placed my Son, and hear what to say to the church about blended families.” The home where God placed his Son was a blended family: Jesus had four brothers and several sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). God was Jesus’ Father; Joseph was the stepfather. “The home where I placed my Son,” says God, “is a home where I was honored.”  In a home where God is in control — I don’t care what the configuration of your blended family — I’ve got some good news for you. If you listen to the voice of God and not to what the people say, you’ll be all right. In a home where God is in control, if you worship at the house of God like the Lord’s parents did every time they had an opportunity, if you model and teach the will of God so your children and your stepchildren can talk with their teachers about important issues of  life, then you won’t have anything to worry about. Everything will be found and kept in divine order because God will take care of you.