Guest Post: A Golden Rule for Divorced Parents

meter-106419_640I first heard about Tim Lemire and his efforts a few months ago when he contacted me about an article about divorced dads I had published on The Huffington Post. You can read that here.

For the past year, Tim has been working to push legislators and the General Assembly in his home state of Rhode Island to adopt an initiative to require divorce and coparenting education for divorcing parents in the family court system. This, no doubt, is a steep uphill battle and I applaud his brave efforts to bring about precious positive change for the sake of the children.

He has written a very thoughtful piece about coparenting and I wanted to share it!

Here is what Tim has to say….

We grown-ups are aware that from time to time, we imitate our parents — and not always voluntarily.

If we are also parents, we want our own children to imitate us … but only in good ways. We do our best, therefore, to model good behavior for them.

If we are divorced parents, we can do this by repeating to ourselves the following: The way I treat my former spouse is how I want my children to treat me.

That doesn’t mean that on your ex’s next birthday, you need to send flowers or a candygram. It doesn’t mean you need to erase your mind’s every negative thought about your ex because that’s what you want your kids to do with you.

Here’s what it does mean:

  • When you badmouth your ex, you teach your children, “It’s OK to call a parent names and to talk about them critically and negatively.”
  • When your children hear you assigning bad motives to your ex, you teach your children to be cynical and suspicious of a parent.
  • When you use Family Court not to resolve disagreements constructively but rather to bully, intimidate, and bankrupt your ex, you are teaching your children that lawsuits are how to resolve disagreements with a parent.
  • When you shut your ex out of your children’s lives — not because your ex poses any threat to your children’s safety, but because you wish to punish your ex — you are teaching your kids, “It’s perfectly OK to cut a parent out of your life.

    If you do any or all of the above, don’t be surprised one day at how critical, cold of heart, or distant your children have become toward you.”

    You are the one who taught them.

    Children learn from both parents, which is why it’s important for both members of a divorced couple to be civil, respectful, fair, and cooperative.

    This golden rule may be the one thing you and your ex can agree on.

    It may not be easy. It may, in fact, be quite hard. But how you handle challenging situations is also something your children are to looking to you, to your example, to learn from.

    If your children become adults who are compassionate and kind, cooperative and collaborative, patient and understanding, would you like them to say they learned all that from you — or from anyone but you?

    Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” — James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes from a Native Son (1961)

    TIM LEMIRE is a writer and visual artist based in Providence, Rhode Island. He is currently working to reform family law in his home state. You can hear more from him on This I Believe.

 

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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!!

A New Heart

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So here is a short devotional thought for the blendermom/stepmom….

Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

During my engagement to my husband, I scoured the internet reading posts, forums, articles, etc….about blended families and being a stepmom. The relationship with my little 6 year old stepson was very important to me and I wanted to do things right. I remember reading forums, posts and articles about stepfamilies and stepmoms.

I was surprised at how many stepmoms are struggling.  There were numerous posts about how the stepmom can’t stand the stepkids, or how the stepchild tries to manipulate to get more attention from their father, or that the husband doesn’t understand.

The thing is, the father and his kids are a package deal.

Maybe you are one of those moms.  You may feel hopeless in your family situation but prayer changes things. Maybe it’s not the stepchildren, but your relationship with your husband that needs mending. God doesn’t want your family to fail. God wants your family to be strong, compassionate, and loving. And I truly believe it starts inside our own heart first.

I encourage you to pray for your husband and your children no matter how you “feel”.  Ask Him to help you see them through His eyes and ask Him to change your heart. Ezekiel 36:26 is a promise that God will change your heart if you are willing and open. Don’t think for one second that because your family was a product of divorce that God thinks less of you! Remember that Jesus lived in a blended family…

1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Let God work healing in your marriage and family.  Let Him start by giving you a new heart.

What’s So Great About 4?

Earlier this summer, I was driving down the road on the way to the grocery store, listening to the radio when the overly zealous radio DJ announces that if you are the 10th caller your name will be entered in a drawing to win a family 4-pack of tickets to go see an upcoming show at the local coliseum. I get to the store and begin my grocery shopping.  I head for the meat department to check out the sales.  I notice that there are packs of fresh ground meat hamburgers all conveniently made into large patties in packs of 4.  I chug home after finishing the task of grocery shopping, put things away and finally sit down and grab my laptop.  Although we had already had an amazing beach vacation at the beginning of the summer, I wanted to look up some prices for a possible trip toward the end of the summer.  I go to the various websites and search the packages and specials.  There is countless, and I do mean countless deals on theme park tickets, food, and  lodging for (you guessed it) a family of 4. Deciding that we did not have enough money I started looking into alternative options for the summer.  A local  water park at a lake 20 minutes from our home was running a special for a summer pass at an amazing deal for a FAMILY OF 4!  After this happened for the 4th time (pun intended) that day I started to ask myself, is society trying to tell us something?  There are so many deals and so many specials geared toward the family and every single one of them for family is limited to 4!  It seems there are so many differences of opinion out there about families and the ones that society seems to want to force upon us is referred to as being politically correct.  Is it that perhaps if you are a family of 4 you are politically correct and the ones that have less than or in my case, more than 4 are politically incorrect?  I can’t help but ask the obvious question here;  what’s so great about 4?  Is that society’s way of reminding us at every turn “ok you have 2 children, you’re done now”?!  Maybe, if you are a family of 3, well I guess it might not be too bad, you can bring a friend.DSC_2164

I asked my husband how he felt about the subject with all the family deals, coupons, or specials are geared toward families of 4.  He said that society certainly seems to be biased toward families that have 2 kids.  He says he feels like it is inconsiderate to the larger families and I am going to have to agree.  Wouldn’t it seem that if you have more than 2 kids would you not need the discount and specials that much more because you have more mouths to feed?  Seriously what are these companies thinking?  “sorry but we only have 4 passes kids so pick a number between 1 and 10  to see which one of you has to sit this one out”!  It seems that we are seeing more and more blended and expanded families these days.  I think it’s time we changed the standard! Who’s with me?? 

Psalms 127:3-5a “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

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.

The grass really isn’t always greener!

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It’s fall and it’s beautiful out there!  We are fortunate enough to live fairly close to beautiful fall color so we took the kids to a state park for a picnic and hiking for the day recently.  In today’s world, on today’s income, money is very tight so we have always tried to do day trips and things that are low cost or my personal favorite, free.  The kids love it.  When I was first divorced and when we first got married, it would really bother me because the other parent would buy so much and take the kids on expensive trips.  (Ouch! I know I just hit a nerve!)  Yes admit it!  You have probably even been more than bothered, you may have even been a little jealous of some of the things the ex was doing and buying!  (Ouch! I said jealous, haha!) After my little “moments”, however I would realize there is not a thing I could do about it other than be the best parent I could be.  I would think of ideas that I or we could do with the kids to make memories.  When I was a single mom with my two kids, I took my kids in the middle of February to the beach for the night.  During the winter, alot of hotels offer very low rates at the beach so I was able to get a room with a queen bed and bunk beds as well as an indoor pool!  At the time teen was 8 and lil man was 3.  They were in awe!  I took them swimming that evening and to the aquarium the next day before going home.  Do you know my kids to this day still talk about that trip!  Another time the same year my husband and I were married we took the kids about 4 hours away to a theme park and stayed for one night.  I had gotten discounts on the room and the tickets.  My husband was just starting college and we again did not have much money but wanted to do something fun before school started back.  We had an amazing time, the five of us!  All the kids, again to this day, still talk about it and beg to go back.  Between my single mom days up until now, a couple of our kids have been given costly gifts and taken on expensive trips with the other parent, but here is something that surprised me…..they never really talked about it that much, or seemed to be as impressed as I thought they would be!  They talk more about the little things that we have done than anything else.  So here is the absolute best advice I could ever give from one blendermom to another: If you really want to impress your kids give them your TIME.  I know you have heard that before but I can’t emphasize enough just how true it is.  When you find yourself focusing on what the other parent or ex is doing, spending, etc….stop right there and start thinking about what you can do to give of yourself, your time to your kids.  It’s not about what the other parent is doing or buying its about you loving the kids and making memories.  We have watched the movie “Flubber” and then made flubber.  We made pudding art with painting chocolate pudding all over waxed paper.  We have got the kids up to watch a meteor shower or see a gigantic full moon rising while singing the moon song.  We have been to countless parks and tried new walking trails.  We have turned off all the lights, especially in the summer evenings, opened all the blinds, and watched a lightening storm.  We have on numerous occasions when the weather was bad, gone to a local bookstore and had coffee (for us) and hot chocolate.  Then the kids would each get a new book and we would come home and read them to the kids.  The list goes on and on but you get the idea.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It doesn’t have to be grand.  Whenever you think the grass is greener, that’s when you need to water your own.  For other ideas, read my blog http://blendermom.me/153194395.  I would love to get comments and messages on what you have done to water your own grass and make memories. info@blendermom.me

Transitioning and Summer Fun

Summer time is very different for blended families!  Sometimes it means you are all together for a longer extended period of time or that the house is more quiet because one or more of the kids are with the other parent.  We have three different schedules for our 3 kids posted on the fridge all year long but even then I get the pick up or drop offs confused from time to time.  However, having this posted, the kids know exactly when and where they are going to be and that seems to help.  If you are a new blender then just letting the kids know when and where they will be helps them so much.  In the beginning for us, one of the kids would cry when we picked them up but after a couple of days they were perfectly happy.  Sadly, it was because the other parent would not prepare the child in any way for the transition.  I think it made the other parent feel loved more if the child cried to leave and/or stay.  Sound familiar?  We can’t change the other parent but being the most steady and stable for your kids can help them transition and grow.  The first few summers, when we did have all the kids, we did not have alot of money.  Divorce, re-marriage, and attorney fees saw to that.  There are however, so many low cost amazing things to do with the kids (blended family or not) that help with the family bonding experience.  I thought I would share a few of the things we did to give ideas.  Parks are amazing for low budget fun.  We of course for an afternoon would head to a local park but we also took it a step farther and started an annual family park fun day.  The week or so before school starts we start in the morning and go play at as many local parks as we can fit in a day.

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The first year we went to 4 parks that dayand had a picnic lunch at their favorite.  The next year we tried to beat that by going to 5 to play but only made it to 3 because one of the kids got sick (hey that’s life)!  We also went on a train ride.  There are train stations all over and their website lists several day trips.  It cost us $50 for a family of 5 round trip and the kids still talk about it.  We also had a family water balloon fight.  It costs very little for balloons and water guns and we had a lot of fun chasing each other around shooting and squealing. This last suggestion may be limiting to your area but had to throw it in because it is so cool.  We have a planetarium within an hour drive.  Their astronomers set up their telescopes in different places one night a month for star and planet gazing and it’s completely free to take the family out and let them see through these huge telescopes and also they teach the kids about what they are seeing!  These are just a few ideas but their is so many memory making things you can do!  Of course, every family should do this but I think it is so important to make precious memories with your blender family!   “A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.”  ~ Chuck Swindoll