Category: Blended Family

Happy New Year! A Mind-FULL Promise and Hope for ALL

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve was much harder than I had anticipated.

2017 was not a good year here at our house. I felt like I was leaving behind someone I did not want to leave behind, and by moving onto 2018, I felt I was doing just that. I left our friend’s house at 11:50 New Year’s Eve leaving my family and the ones that care for me most to celebrate without me. I just couldn’t bring in the New Year with Joy. It escaped me in those moments… for a few short minutes I forgot the plan of HOPE,  the year of heartache caught up with me in those last few minutes of 2017. I had a good old-fashioned grief cry in my driveway as the clock struck 12 and then went inside falling asleep with Ethan’s teddy bear in my arms. It was the absolution I needed to say farewell to the old year.

God is impressive on this journey and woke me up on day one of 2018 with a reminder of all there is.

A calendar reminder chimed and flashed on my phone next to my bed  “Have Courage & Forgive.” I had added that to my calendar weeks ago. It is set as a reminder every day for me.

I need the courage to move forward with the Hope of tomorrow. I need to forgive myself for my regrets and mistakes of my past. Sometimes, I still need a reminder of the goal I am working on. I need this to be a good mama, wife, a servant of Christ and human others want to know.

After Ethan died, I was lost….Everyone was reaching out asking WHY and WHAT can we do. At that time I was aware enough in my grief to know I wanted to do something but unsure of how God would move me forward.

Many of you know that writing was very healing to me…so was sharing. I felt the strongest pull to be open and transparent with our situation to help others out there who may be struggling with the very same issues our family was.

Raising kids, parenting without all of the answers, depression, anxiety, and self-medicating. 

I began to write Ethan’s story. I started by going back to my old journals and re-reading. Oh so painful and bittersweet. Some days I cannot read them, some days I cannot write as the emotions of heartache and sweet memories fading gush over into my day. I remembered the early years when he was a baby and so very healthy and growing just right. I remembered the days when he was 18 months and started to fall apart.

I remembered the way we fixed him up just right.

In the early months after Ethan’s death, my sister Wendy and I began to research depression and anxiety. Our family contains some genetic imperfections. Depression, cancer, thyroid disease, heart disease, brain tumors, dementia, ADHD and so the list goes on. Both Wendy and I became increasingly interested in prevention.

We asked ourselves what we could do to protect and provide our living children, husbands and our own bodies to live the most optimal life of wellness that we could.

We yearned to be free of the diseases holding our hearts hostage as we processed how unhealthy our family background was. Hours and hours of studying doctors seminars, videos and reading every book we could get our hands on filled our spring, summer, and fall.

What we discovered broke my heart further. Guilt lay on me like never before.

 

A change had to happen after we uncovered the devastating truth about the choices we were making in our own lives and families. So we did, we changed. It was hard….it was frustrating, and it is still a work in progress.

We are healing our mind, body and spirit and that of our children and husband one day at a time.

As I uncovered these truths for our family, I once again was driven to share what we had learned. I felt like screaming from the top of my lungs “Don’t do what I did! There is another way!!” The truth is I am introverted, so yelling was not going to work for me.

I needed a small group platform to share our story and provide an opportunity for immediate change that could begin instantly. That is something else I discovered when Ethan died. Everyone wanted to fix the issue immediately because let’s be real, that is the way the world rolls these days. Unfortunately, the lessons I learned will not change depression and anxiety overnight, they will not make perfect teenagers, and I still don’t have the answer to every parenting situation that comes up.

There was one thing that DID give me instant mind and body support, and that was my essential oils.

I had been using essential oils for years without recognizing the true power of them.  When Ethan died, my friend, Angie brought over a few oils I did not have and a diffuser necklace. Once I began wearing the necklace and the oils on me every day and night, I began to relax; my mind opened up to HOPE. I saw more than death; I saw life after death. For Ethan in heaven eternally and earthly life here for us. I can only say that those oils supported my emotional wellbeing so much that I am tearful with gratitude as I write this. That is how important they became in our healing journey. Mind, Body, and Spirit. Those oils eased me out of bed on the worst days, lifted my spirits when memories would flash in my head. Paralyzed by grief before, I was now able to smile back, and the hurt no longer brought me to my knees. The pain of losing a child does not leave.  I promise you that, however, it no longer paralyzed my heart and thoughts.

 

As I searched for a way to share our story and offer up what I learned, I realized after much prayer that I could host Wellness Classes through Young Living.

I do not know why I never thought of this option before. They go hand in hand. My love for the healing oils and my deepest desire to share what I have gleaned these past eight months after Ethan’s death about mental, physical and spiritual  Wellness or……the lack of.

I also took my writing and turned it in the direction of sharing the same lessons of HOPE. I have created a WELLNESS blog A MIND-FULL PROMISE that will launch in the coming weeks. You can click here to get to the new blog. This blog Stepfamily Blended will remain, but my focus will be on moving forward away from the grief of our story.

2018 does not seem so bleak without our boy when we can put our focus into HOPE, and a well-lived LIFE for ALL.

 

After Ethan died, hundreds of people reached out to us. We are filled with gratitude at the LOVE and SUPPORT we received. Humbled truly by the school system, community, friends and our family as well as the many strangers that reached out. So many told us they were in similar situations or knew of ones that were.

So many of you even asked, “what can we do?”

 You can fill my calendar with the opportunity to share our story and educate you on our story of mind, body and spirit  WELLNESS. It can be over coffee at a local spot, in your living room with a group of friends, or with a small group at the winery in town. Whatever feels comfortable to you.

 

This Wellness class includes:

The Art of Mindfulness, Using Essential Oils to banish A Toxic Lifestyle and Why SAD needs to go away.

I am happy to create a FB event, print out invites or help create an invite script to share with family and friends by text or messenger. I am willing to travel on the weekends to share our story of HOPE.

In addition please be on the lookout for our Blog,  A MIND-FULL PROMISE launching soon.

Full Disclosure –  both the class, through selling oils for wellness and advertising on my blog are income producing venues. As much as I would love for our story to be a mission I am still responsible for providing for my family. My goal is to work from home, spending my time completing Ethan’s story A S.A.D and Toxic Way to Die in writing to share with the world. I believe his story is truly one that MUST be told so those living can truly live a life well lived. By creating an income and sharing, I am fulfilling my responsibility to my family and to all who do not understand the importance of what Wendy and I have uncovered after months of researching the likely cause of my beautiful boy’s death. I share only what I truly believe will benefit all.  This class is not just for those who cross the destruction of depression and anxiety but those who find conflict passing through life.

 

It has not been easy, not even close to easy to forgive myself. That has come through much prayer and self-discovery. Some will say what do you have to forgive but when your child dies by suicide that is a natural feeling. I sometimes still need that calendar reminder to put me back into place.

Mindfulness has taught me to focus on now. The moment we are in. To be present, aware and filled with gratitude for the very place in life we are living.

Today, Looks bright with a year ahead to make a difference. A year to talk, share the tools we have learned and create relationships.

A year FULL OF a MIND-FULL PROMISE I have made to my son and ALL who struggle with what we have.

So if you are still on board with that long ago offer of “What can we do?” Invite me over with a few of your friends and let me open up your hearts and minds to a year of change.

Happy New Year Friends – Cheers to a New Year with every Possibility of a Life WELL lived and the Hope of Change one Body at a time. 

 

With Love and Hope,

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Road

 

I am trying to decide if this July week was better than the same one this time last year. That is most likely not what you would think a mother  grieving her son would write. I am a bit confused myself, to be honest. It is a confusing concept to find a bit of relief in my week when most would think I am hiding under my covers and crying myself to sleep each night.

Let me explain that a bit, by sharing last July at this time.

Last July this week was an up and down battle, an anxiety attack for any mother and father. A blended family nightmare. It started with a phone call. The father of my children gave me a late night call. “Your boy is in trouble he said.” “What”?  I am confused. He was to go home and spend time with his girlfriend and work the next day.

A simple plan and a chance for independence.

My Mr. and I along with our blended family of ten had spent the week at my sisters on the other side of the state. All should go well with my far away family in town. That is what you would think; it is all I had hoped in my naive parent heart. That all of my teenage kids and two that scream not just there at under twelve would be one big happy family celebrating the stars and stripes with Grandpa and Grandpa and Aunts and uncles. The hot, warm sun and lazy river we floated down would be enough for our kids.

The poolside laughter and potluck dinners the very icing on the cake to have them see the good life they live each day.

That same week on the other side of the state even brought the first visit to the school my blond haired boy of seventeen would ultimately choose for his college education. The dreams I had for him that day. As we toured with the other families. Looking at the dorm, we would sign him up for, thinking of the business man he would one day be. Thoughts they drift for a mom like me. I often dream of life for my babies, even now that they are teens.

 

My dreams all made up in my mama’s head differed from my teenage child that week.  Our oldest boy at seventeen and a half had other plans. With his Dad on the east of the state and close to home we agreed to let our oldest boy drive the ninety minutes in his car and head home to his dad’s house for the night. His dad would not be home, near but not in the house. Our boy would stay alone that night.

He left our family celebration, and with a kiss and hug and assurance, he would behave. I watched him drive away.

Why I let him go, I do not know. I think because I had learned that a few of my friends had successfully left their teens on their own. Also, I think because I remember the days of seventeen when I wanted to be free pretending independence was complete. Maybe too, the fact that he was soon to be eighteen. One more school year and he would be off to college and dorm life. The time now to start to grow up and prove some independence.

He had been doing great, working hard and no issues of late.

Moms know that sinking feeling in the pit of your heart that says something is not right. When the phone rang, it was not a shock.  My boy’s dad said our boy had been caught with friends that differed from the original plan we were told. The other boy had snuck away; his parents came across the lies that were all behind our back. Worst yet was the light. The light from the parked car they found our kids in as they drove by. That light was the scent of sorrow. The drug that some think should be legal. I think not.

Our boy, who had been given a chance at freedom was caught in a lie, where and who he had been with and the reason why.

Some will say big deal; my kid too has done these things. Others will question, why I let him leave a family gathering. What kind of parent chooses to let their child go? The sides will be torn and it does not matter what is said in the end my child is not here this Fourth of July Weekend.

Last July was the start of our decline.

It was embarrassing at the time. The choices my boy made. I was humbled by the mistake I had made as well. Letting him go that hot July day.

My family knew of my boy’s antics as they overheard the late night call. My husband who still has children young enough to not deal with teenage things just yet, listened quietly as I had hashed things out and came up with a plan with the man I was married before. The patience of a saint my Mr. of now, as he listened often to the husband of before and I figure out our first born. We did not raise our boy to lie and hide. Why would he do this?  I wanted to trust him.

Now he turns our week of family time into turmoil and deceit.

 

The next week was our annual Up North Family camping trip. We were all together. No tricks to separate. That week was hard. I am writing this post in the very same campground just one year, and one week ago my party of ten camped …our blended family vacation.

 My oldest boys’ demons set in.

 

There is no space or time for him to be alone when your home for a week is a pop-up camper.  He would ask to run to the store; he would take long walks to get away. I get that, the need for solitary space. To think, to read, to write to just be. That part of my boy is just like me. His dad too always needed that place of escape. So when my boy of almost eighteen leaves for a walk after a rough past week I let him go. I keep a close watch, but I try and let him heal his demons with space.

I made a poor choice my heart pain reminds me. Letting him be.

He hated this vacation one year ago. I know he tried to make the best of it, but it was there, the dislike of our company. His mood was down I could see. His girlfriend had just broken off their new found relationship. It came to an end much faster than he had hoped. He was hurting. I could see. How do you know as a mother where to step in? He has to learn real life somehow someway.

Today, my heart wants to cut off the world and protect him once again.

I hated the hurt he felt. It was a pain that in most kids at this age would give him experience and then would go on to other things. Not this boy. He thought hard and deep and was critical of himself and others that were not like him.

His sulky ways and overwhelmed head made it difficult for him to enjoy anything we did that week. This boy of mine, deeper than most. His head works like a faucet with a constant drip of remembering; he cannot shut things out. He cannot turn the faucet off.

Normal teen experiences were a trigger to something darker we can now see.

 

It was hard to even like him those days if you want to know. He was short with me, soon came the walking on eggshells to keep things smooth. There are ten of us after all. Seven more kids who want to have fun. Three of them my step kids, whom we have limited time, only summers and holidays to enjoy. I went back to some old habits to keep things even. Letting him get his way with his mood to keep things cool. He was sometimes mean to his brothers, Moody, up and down, high and low. It was a rollercoaster that changed all of our moods. It was tiring for us all. If you have a child with anxiety and depression than you know the crumbly road of crunchy shells I walked those days just being a mom.

In that moment, I still was not sure if this was normal teenage behavior or something more.

 

When the rain came in droves, we packed our family camp trip up and shipped him on the road home. I was so thankful that day, to pack up our kids and get off the eggshell road of camping with my son. I felt a freedom and some rest on the drive back. He in the other car and us in the van of peace.

The regrets are there. Today, sitting in the same space as a year ago.

I wish it back again. I’d take the eggshell road and stomp my way through that mess to love on my boy just for a moment again.

I would sit in the rain as ten, huddled in one pop up camper playing cards and listening to bickering kids just to touch my first born boy’s shoulder again, to simply remind him he was loved.

I would give anything to teach him hope.

 

This year, this week of celebrating time, my other four…oh so hard to say, when it should be five. They are with their dad this year. I am glad. A new place to visit to keep things different. Time with family and not a reminder of here. A reminder of the sand and water play, a reminder of dinners on summer nights around a campfire. Change in space to escape the horror of our boy’s death. I am glad my four are with their dad, sunning themselves and boating on the big Great Lake.

 

I am filled with gratitude that this week there is no Parade of eggshells on the street for my far north three. Eggshells are no walk for the other kids.

So little time I get to be stepmom in their day. Only the summer and vacations from school. Never enough to be complete. So this week, the eggshells are swept away. We ride our bikes to this summer town for fun. We paddle boats in the Hidden Lake. Pancakes and bacon outside with the birds chirping above. Sandy beaches and Mackinaw Fudge. New memories to make.

 

Regrets, yes. Looking back is hard when you start to see the beginning of the end. The tears still come. Almost every day at some point. Most often when I am alone or late at night. Daytime brings our new normal. My oldest boy is not the only one. There are seven more to love each day and our adopted adult that lives in her own home with the support of staff. That does not take it away, the sorrow we hold. It makes it impossible to not go on. Seven more kids, three this week in a place that once held so much distress, it is more predictable than last July. We work towards each new step. Looking forward to the hope God brings. Praying our boy has found freedom from all of his pain.

We picture our angel walking the path of light with Christ not the eggshell road of depression and anxiety.

 

The smell of bacon and coffee run through my quiet site sneaking over from the tents to our right. I take in the sounds of this place. The quiet chatter of people waking. The nature sounds of outside that make me think of Heaven. The rest are still asleep. I pray often that God hears my cry to help us heal from this pain. The heart hurt that is a constant beat. The last months my mama bear fight to not curl up in my den all day and sleep if I could not save my first born bear than maybe this is not the job for me, I wonder late at night when no one sees my tears and my internal head heart fight.

A little blond girl walks out the camper door. She needs step mama closeness this morning. The chill and dampness are still in the air. She looks up with freckles I did not create and her far away north mama’s face.

I am overcome with hope for all we already have. Once again I am reminded I am gifted a chance to raise up children even if for a short time. That my day is a choice, how I choose to live it will serve or take. Although, I never imagined stepmom as my name. Never dreamed my other four on a separate vacation. Wishing more than anything I could change our reservations in life back to a party of ten, not the five we are now today. I am warmed in my heart to the very core by God’s grace when my stepdaughter sits close and needs me just a bit. Enough to remind me to get out of my mama bear cave and do the job God created for me.

No, this July is no better than the years before. It is different. I know more. Hurting deeper. Now, seeing things with a slow awakening of purpose.  This July makes me want Freedom. Freedom for the kids like my son, the ones fighting the hopeless war. The ones that battle depression and mental illness. This year the fireworks shine a light on our boy’s absence, a brilliant glare and searing bang that make me realize we do not have our son but we have his story.

We are walking the slow going Freedom road this July.

 

I cannot see it all just yet.  The good that will come of our hurt. The purpose that will come from the pain that plagued my son.  My hope is there. My faith in one who created all. A love so great.

 

 

Romans 8:24

For in this hope we were saved. Now Hope that is seen is not hope. For Who Hopes for what he sees? However, if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love means saying goodbye to Pride

 

You would think that Love is easy, life and experience have shown me something different.

I know I am not perfect, flawed and in need of growing. So I search….to gain more in who I am, to give more to those around me. Searching, for me, is in God’s word. It (God’s word)  is my school of mom and wife growth.

When I started to study love, I knew there was greater opportunity for challenges in our blended family life. I wanted to make sure that this marriage worked. That our family worked. That we were not a statistic of second marriage failure as I had become a first marriage failure already. I never wanted my kids or self to go through that pain again.

None of this study was done overnight, In fact, it took some mistakes and ongoing challenges to even realize that LOVE needed to be explored in my life.

Love Is the Greatest

 If I could speak all the languages of earth and angels but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I did not love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proudor rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance

If you have read any previous blended family posts, you will see that I have a passion for encouraging those in a blended family, those in remarriages. God put it on my heart long ago to write about what a biblical second marriage might look like.

Ethan taking his life confuses that a bit. At the moment he, our other children and our grief process are the priority of our minds and hearts. The lessons connect though.

The lessons on love remain the same whether in death or life, stepfamilies or grief. God’s love is the same.

Today I write about pride, In his letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul reminds us Love is not proud. Proud or Pride meaning showing excessive self-esteem, defined by the dictionary, Strong’s Concordance uses the word Haughtiness to define huperephania the Greek word for pride. ” I am not better than you” is what I think Paul could be saying. So in blended family life what does the loss of a child look like? How can pride come into play?

Loss of a child, young or old takes you to a place no one wants to go.

Standing in my ex-husband’s yard watching the medical examiner drive away with my beautiful boy left me feeling lost, empty, searing with grief. It was all too much to process in the cold, windy day. The tears of my children stained the road where they used to ride their bikes. The cries of their dad as he wept and fell to the ground tore at my heart; I felt his pain. We are living our worst nightmare. The death of our child. The grief too great.

There we stood all together, my husband, my children, their father and his fiancé along with her littles. We stood in the late April wind as the sun set trying to figure out how to take a step forward, how to even walk toward the house.

I am thankful that day that our pastor came quickly, he arrived before everyone else.

He and a favorite neighbor were the ones who knew what to do. They soothed and calmed us and held us as the police asked a million questions. They made sure Nolan was safe at the moment when the police separated us. They held me up when I thought I would pass out from shock, crying so hard I could not think.

Before my husband, the rest of the kids and their dad arrived; the police offered me alone time with my Ethan. I lay over him weeping and praying, begging God to give him back. When I knew it was too late for life, I prayed for God to keep him close in Heaven. I asked for hope because in the minute I was swallowed up in a loss so profound I could not see out of it.

 Our pastor sat down next to me, and with wisdom and clarity he prayed over my Ethan and asked for something different than I had. He prayed for Unity.

 

Later, in the blur of the night as we stood together in the house. This place I   raised my kids in for years. This is the home my children share time. Half here with their dad where he stayed after our divorce and half in our home in town. This home though, different than mine had a lifetime of memories with their brother. Not just for them but me also. This address, this street, this house had more at the moment than our home of five years for my family.

This is the home where I stayed all day as a young mother, the home I lived in when Ethan learned to read. This is the place where I rocked him to sleep. The bedroom here where is crib once stood. The place where I prayed with him.

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.

 I prayed this prayer along with the Lord ’s Prayer lying in bed with his tiny little hands folded just as my mother had once said them with me.

 
This is the home where all barriers came down, and a family was united in our grief.

Love in the Bible is not proud.

There was not I am better than you in the moments of loss. There was no “my way is right, and yours is not”. I let go of any notion of doing things my way, the organized, controlled way of my past. Anything I thought I might have wanted was buried in sorrow and chaos.

 

Ami, my kid’s one-day stepmom opened her heart to love me like a friend at that moment. She treated me with respect and care. She took over in all areas I had no energy to spare. My husband took on new roles as well, caring for the kids and taking on burdens at work and home all the while he was focused on me and his mom. During this process, she was in the midst of cancer surgery.

Way too much going on for any one family to bear.

 

The funeral planned by the four of us. A team united in preparing a time for family and friends to say their goodbyes. My ex-husband opened his home each day, to all of our friends and relatives. Never once did we not feel welcome. I wandered aimlessly around the home I had once called my own. Touching, feeling each of my son’s things that sat in this home of my before.

Memories flooded in and out, laughter and toddler play, reminders flashed at me in pictures on the shelf. The kids, their four parents, and family united in our sorrow. We sat and looked at pictures many long hours, we ate together, nourished by the food friends sent to help us out.

 

When one was weak the other would take over, most of those hours it was Ami who did the most. Humility is part of the process of grief. You have to let others in; grief cannot be done alone.

In my ex-husband’s future wife, I found support and comfort.

Pride, I admit maybe something I have offered up before. I believe there have been times when I thought my way was right. Divorce does ugly things to your head. Satan uses that to his advantage. The kid’s dad too, let go of any issues that may have attacked our past. Prayers for unity. God shut out our pride when our pastor prayed over my son.

With that simple prayer, he let us Love our child together all the way to Heaven.

 

After the funeral that spring Saturday just 12 days ago we lunched and visited with family. Our extended families joined again after years of not seeing each other. When the day was done, and the cars were thinning out it was time for us to go.   I hugged Ami’ and said, “I love you”. I went on to her future husband and did the same. I said those words from my heart. I love them as the parents of my children, I love them because of the good that they shared. I love because they are my neighbor, the ones God calls us to love and care for.

When you love as God calls us too, he opens our hearts, our souls, we are able to let go of the negatives that get in the way, and focus on what counts. God lets us see things Paul teaches to that messy church in Corinth.

He reminds us that life can be forgiven, that if we do not have LOVE in our hearts…then we have nothing at all.

I do not need to hang out at the house anymore. Seventeen days in we are back on schedule as far as the kids go.  Ami is a gift to my children and their dad. My husband too is sent by God. The four of us will not hang out on Friday nights; there is no reason for us to chat unless it entails the children or we are dealing with our loss of Ethan. There are sure to be times we will have differences in opinion, to that I am not naive. We stand strong for our children. That is our priority.

We are grateful for the love we received, the open arms and opportunity for unity. At the Harris House we push out pride and simply do our best to love like Jesus AND give thanks for the blessings we have.

 

 

 

6 Tips to Handle Transition Time with Stepkids – Visitation Dread | Read Ahead

Find out how we deal with the dread of arrival time at the Harris House. Transition time can be a challenge in a blended family. Read on for 6 Tips on Transitions Time with your stepkids.

Do you dread your stepkids coming to visit?

I did.

Don’t judge me. If you have read any previous post, you already know I love my stepchildren and have a heart full of love. Really I do.

That does not mean I ENJOY every aspect of when my stepkids come. The reality is, there are moments I do not embrace when ANY of our kids walk in the door.

You might wonder why a mom of many would DREAD her three innocent kids coming for a visit. Why the thought of her own sweet blessings returning home after a week at their dads brought about the need to pray for patience and grace in welcoming them back. In their time away all I had done was miss them after all.

One  Simple reason for this Dread-

TRANSISITION TIMES ARE CHALLENGING IN A BLENDED FAMILY  HOME!

When my step kids would come, everything was different. For them and us. Sometimes even awkward. We were trying to please and entertain, and they felt like they were walking into a place they did not belong. When my kids came home from their dads, it was a bit easier as they come a week on week off, but still, there was that time of adjustment.

Transition times in a blended family are hard. Hard for the kids and the adults.

Each time our kiddos arrive, whether gone for months or even a just a week they can bring with them some undesirable behaviors and routines.

Over time and some painful mistakes, we have learned a few tricks that help ease the AWKWARD for the kids and SANITY for the adults during transition times in our house.

1. Be warm and welcoming but Don’t overdo it-

When our kids arrive, I wait for them to get past the door. THEN,  I warmly hug them and greet them with a smile.  I move on to doing something normal. I am available and approachable but not hyper-focused on them as they get in the door and get settled. In the past, my greetings may have been a bit overwhelming.  I would squeal with delight at seeing them, and blurt out a million questions. “What do you want for dinner? How is School? What do you want to do this weekend”? All of this without taking a breath. I was OVERWHELMING THEM with my enthusiasm.

2. Time to adjust is a must-

The first years we were together my Mr, and I would find ourselves waiting in anticipation for his kid’s arrival. In our excitement we would have the night planned out, dinner at their favorite restaurant, a fun activity if not too late. One day my then 11-year-old stepson said: “can we just stay in?” It seems that all along that is what they wanted. They yearned to just relax. Wanting to arrive and play with their toys and just settle in. The same holds true when my kids show up for my scheduled week. They prefer to unpack the few things that travel back and forth with and set things up for the week ahead. They do not want entertainment, they want normalcy.

3. Quizzes and questions-

Avoid quizzing the kids on where they have been and whom they have spent time. Asking too many questions leaves our kids feeling guarded. We have one question we ask “how have you been”? We leave it at that. In time our littles open up. That is when we extend the conversation with another simple question, “tell me more about it”? In a blended family, kids are often protective of the house or parent they have just come. On occasion, a parent may even have warned them to keep things to themselves. We have found it best to be at ease with not hounding them with questions. When the conversation does open up in their time frame, we find it to be way more productive and enjoyable than if we would have questioned away from the beginning.

4. Stepparent stepdown –

When my kids arrive home after a week at their dad’s they are LOUD, my word they are so Loud! It is a family trait from their father’s side. I won’t mention the traits from my side just yet… Music is louder, voices higher and it feels obnoxious in comparison to the quiet week my husband and I have had. The Mr. and I look forward to the kids coming home, but their arrival brings kid chaos and LOUDNESS. Sometimes there are habits from their dad’s they bring. Eating in the living room for one and sometimes cutting each other down. When the Mr.’s kids arrive they too pack a few things we are not accustomed to. A different set of manners and habits, TV shows, phrases and sometimes even attitudes.

We find there is less conflict if the step parent “steps down” in our house during times of transition. When the loudness is too much on that first day, my Mr. gives them grace and walks away. I too have to step down when my step kids arrive and let them work on our ways. I hold my tongue on eating habits and don’t correct what they say. When overwhelmed with the changes my hubby and I give each other time to take a break from the chaos. Grace and patience have led to smoother transitions. Depending on the length of stay we may have to remind the kids of our house rules, for the most part, we try to avoid that on the first day.

5. Anticipate feeling left out-

You may find when the kids come to visit they need the special time with their birth parent.  I encourage my Mr. to watch a movie alone with his children, he, in turn, gives me space to sit with my girls and hash teenage things out. There have been plenty of times I  wanted time alone with my husband but waited patiently until the kids were in bed. I know this is the case for my MR as well. Weeknights filled with plenty to do when my people are here. My Mr. silently waits until things quiet down for the night to share time with me.

It may seem like we are left out, but the truth is we are focusing on our kid’s needs at the moment so we can have quality time when the kid stuff settles down. Patience and anticipation eliminate the tug of war that sometimes accompanies blended families. We know from the start that there will be times we are left out. Knowing this makes the transition easier for all when there is no envy involved.  When the kids are all here for extended stays, we make sure we plan date nights to spend time as husband and wife. In the chaos of every day, we encourage and lift one another up each other in front of our kids.

6. Stick with a routine-

Children need to know what to expect, even our teens. We try to keep things the same. We are a busy family, so there is normal family life going on. However, the Mr and I work diligently at giving the kids all a time to process our plans or changes. I have heard over and over again how my kids hate to find things out at the last minute. For us, that is sending a text or a call to our teens to let them know well ahead of House changes or weeke6.nd plans. For the younger ones, we may share things via a call or Skype. We make sure that we do not spring crazy things on them before they arrive. Working hard a normalcy is key to transactions at our house.

 

I could not end this post without mentioning the most important Tip of all.

 To pray.

 

I pray for grace when I am feeling like a not so perfect stepmom; I pray our kids will find peace and joy in our home.

I ask for forgiveness for my mistakes. I GIVE THANKS FOR ALL I HAVE.

It is not easy blending a family. It is hard to watch your kids struggle when they come and go. Even with all of the challenges, I am so very grateful the gift of our family and happy to say in the moment,  no dread involved.

 

 

Do you ever have a feeling of DREAD when thinking of transition times? Comment below -What works in your house when it comes to Transition times?

 

Be blessed in your weekend –

Steph