Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Be Prepared To Avoid Holiday Custody Hell

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The holidays can turn into one of the most hellish seasons of the year if custody issues flare up. The frustration of sharing custody can put incredible pressure on the relationship between separated parents. Parents with serious addictions may go off the deep end during the holiday season and cause excessive problems or put their children in extremely dangerous situations. I have noticed over the years that almost every holiday we end up in emergency court due to the life choices of my stepdaughter's mother. A conversation with our attorney recently confirmed my suspicions that this is something many families go through and one that keeps attorneys very busy during the holiday season.

The month of December can be an explosive pressure cooker for many divorced or separated families. While it's impossible to immunize ourselves against potential problems there are some things we should do just in case.

1) Have the appropriate, most up to date copy of the court order. Sometimes these need to be certified copies. Talk to your attorney to make sure you have the proper documentation if you have a history of problems at the holidays.

2) Be sure about who you should contact if your child's other parent does not show up to drop off your child. Your attorney can also advice you on this. In some cases it may be a police department, in others a sheriff's department. You may also need to contact Child Protective Services. It may be likely that your attorney will need to go to court for emergency action by the judge. Know what you will need to do, just in case.

3) Be sure you are aware of your attorney's holiday schedule and the court's closure dates. Many law offices close for at least at week at the holiday season. Plan accordingly so that you aren't caught in an emergency while their offices or the courts are closed.

4) Make sure you have communicated with the other parent in every way possible to verify that you are on the same page about pick up and drop off. Irresponsible parents are notorious for not reading emails, listening to voicemails or having any idea what it says in the court order. Use every communications method you can document and speak in person to make sure that there can be no question in the other parent's mind about when drop off and pick up are scheduled.

5) Make sure you pick kids up in plenty of time before any scheduled pre-paid travel. More than once we have missed flights and had trips significantly delayed by my stepdaughter's mother not showing up at the appointed time. This seems to especially happen when she knows our travel details. Rescheduling travel during the holidays is a nightmare. If you can give yourself a couple of days before you are to leave to make sure you have your child and are ready to go you will save yourself potentially very stressful and expensive problems.

No matter what happens, make the most of every minute you have together. Anything less than living with your child one hundred percent of the time is hard to accept. With school and extracurricular activities it can be very difficult to have time with your kids. Teach yourself and then teach them how to make the most in every moment you have together and not worry about how short the time is. You will remember how you felt far longer than what you did. Make it a loving, joyful time together, however short it is.

I pray for all parents of sweet children living in two homes that your holidays will be peaceful and joyful, without problems. I hope you will enjoy every moment together and a love that will carry you peacefully into the new year.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Things To Think About Before You Marry A Parent

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When I read posts on social media by angry, bitter, sad, depressed, frustrated, negative stepmoms and stepdads I feel so sad for them. I feel sad for their spouses and their stepkids too. I wonder why these women and men chose to marry someone with kids in the first place or how much they evaluated what this experience would be like for them before they jumped in.

Becoming a stepmom or stepdad may be one of the situations you need to think most deeply and honestly about in life. Sure it's great to fall in love with a guy or gal, but you really have to look at the family dynamic that already exists, because, Sister (Brother), you are going to get dropped right in the middle of it and you are going to sink or swim. There are no two ways about it. No matter how great your guy (gal) seems, there are going to be a lot of other people and situations involved in your relationship, your household and creating pressure from outside as well.

When you are dating someone with kids, here are a few honest issues and questions you need to consider BEFORE you decide you are head over heels in love with him or her.

1) Listen to what he/she says about his/her previous relationship. Talk a lot about his/her hopes for a future relationship and how they have changed to make that more possible. Ask them what lessons they have learned and what changes they have made. Ask them why their previous relationship failed.

This speaks volumes about where you are potentially headed. Was it all the other's fault? Did the relationship die a slow miserable death over a long period of time due to mutual neglect? Was there addiction, adultery, abandonment or abuse? If you have any concerns about what you hear, consider your options carefully.

2) Date for a long time. This is a situation where dynamics will reveal themselves over a longer period of time. Take the time. Rushing may be the fastest way to the shortest marriage and fastest divorce you've ever seen.  Plus taking time allows everyone to try on this new relationship and become adjusted to the idea. Once the infatuation passes in the first few months you must see where you stand with realistic eyes. If you are in a rush to get married, this is probably not a good situation for you to be in.

3) Be honest about how much you like or don't like his/her kids and how they feel about you. No matter how much you and your significant other love each other, if it's bad with the kids, your marriage probably won't survive. Be realistic about who you are, what you can do, how interested you are in trying and how those kids are going to deal with you.

Be honest. Don't lie to yourself and tell yourself it's going to be okay if it's not. If it's bad when you're dating it will only get worse once you get married and move in together. Having said all that, you'd be surprised how much success you can have if you are nice, positive, kind and show genuine interest in them. If you don't feel you can be an influence for good and happy kindness in this family, you should walk away no matter how much you love boyfriend/girlfriend.

4) Ask yourself how mature you are about dealing with the ex-spouse and how well you manage jealousy. This will be one of the most aggravating relationships you will ever have in your life, even if it's pretty good. It will require a huge amount of maturity to manage well - and it will still be hard.

How willing are you to be polite anyway? Can you bite your tongue and put your spouse and the children's well-being first? Are you someone who will be inclined to gripe to your partner about their ex on a constant basis? Will you be able to let it go and live your life? Can you handle this difficult aspect of the relationship? A partner will not be excited about a nagging spouse for long and things will only go downhill from there - you will be the one left out in the cold and maybe even start making that ex not seem so bad after all.

5) Are you willing to forego some of the romance and one-on-one time with your significant other for the sake of the kids? Dating a parent is much different than meeting someone when you are both single and have no children. I'm not saying there won't be magic, romance, date nights and all that good stuff. But I am saying that you will have to swallow the pill that there will not be as much of it as there would be with someone with no children. Anticipate more family movie nights, family dates to museums, amusement parks and soccer games. Be ready to forego some of your expectations for a cloud of blissfulness surrounding just the two of you all the time.

***A warning I must add here, if you are dating someone who is willing to give the kids the heave ho to focus solely on romancing you, consider what he/she will do once you've been around for a while and he/she sees a shiny new object over your shoulder. If the person you are dating is not a responsible parent, they will not be a responsible partner either.

I'd love your feedback on these suggestions if you are already a stepmom or stepdad. Is there something you wished you'd done differently or something you did that made all the difference to your success? If you are dating someone with kids now, I'd love to hear what you think about these ideas and how they got you thinking. I hope through a community conversation we can all help each other along to more peace, love and happiness. Sending you my best wishes for your happiness!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Traditions And Rotating Custody

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One of the hardest parts about being a blended family is having to split holidays with the kids. A Thanksgiving or a Christmas but never both. That also means no annual traditions that you all participate in. You most likely never will have the kids at the same time every year for annual community events. It's impossible to do an Advent Calendar or Christmas countdown chain because the kids aren't in your home every day.

In spite of all those frustrations I believe that the best thing I can do for my family it to create presence and special moments in the holidays each year. We may not be able to do the same thing every year but we can do special things every year. And by spending time with each other we forge a bond and build memories together that I hope will last a lifetime.

I decorate some on my own and then leave some decorating for our little one for when she is here. I know she doesn't have the long-term interest to do it for a day, but if I leave her an hour of decorating and some special things for her room, she's in heaven. I plan  a few special activities that we can attend together on the days she's with us. Most importantly I try to fill our home with love, affection and comfort. I am continually reminded by the thought that people don't remember what they did as much as they remember how they felt. So creating magical moments in our home are my priority.

This includes singing carols around the fireplace, planning special holiday movie nights, baking cookies for friends and neighbors, going to see special Christmas lights and concerts, and making a few simple craft projects. I try to get simple gifts and not many of them. My focus in on showing that I know what they like and what might make them really happy.

Another thing I try to provide is peaceful calm. The world is so hectic. Being traded back and forth between two homes cannot be easy. But I want my family to feel at home, as ease and at peace when they are here. I light candles, I put on peaceful music in quiet times. I hope they get lots of rest, eat good simple food and have time to unwind and decompress.

These are my holiday traditions. While we give up having our kiddo with us every holiday, which is plenty hard in its own right, making the best of every moment we do have has always brought me cheer, comfort and a focus on what is most important.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Things Do Turn Around

image by Inspired Stepmom

We got some fantastic news regarding our long and painful custody fight this week. It's so great that it's almost hard to believe. We still have a bit of a road ahead of us before these good things come to fruition but things are looking great.

It reminds me of the little shred of faith I have held on to these several years. I have always believe that the truth would come out in the end, that we would see the light of day after travailing through false accusations, lies and deceptions. We knew the truth was on our side, we knew our little one knew who was living in truth and who was more focused on taking care of her and providing for her. We just had to keep getting up to fight for another day, day after day, month after month, year after year. We were encouraged on by so many who had been in our shoes or had family members who'd been through similar situations. Everyone kept reminding us to hang in there, have faith and to believe that things would turn around.

One of the most important things we had to do throughout was to make sure we didn't get dragged out into the weeds of all the negativity and accusations. We had to keep our focus on living our truth, being the best parent and stepparent we could be and always focus on doing our best. We couldn't allow the shady efforts of the opposition to drag us down to be lesser people or fill us with anger and destroy us and our family.

In this we have been greatly blessed because we have had the chance to enjoy so much love with our little one and we have learned to enjoy life's beautiful little moments even when everything around us is difficult. This has been a fantastic blessing.

And so we say to all those who are struggling through the dark days of custody battles, keep on keeping on. Put your focus on the well-being of your child and enjoy every moment you can. One day the sun will come up yet again and things will be different and you will see the dawn of a new, better day. Listen to us, listen to the good people who are around you and have faith that things will get better, the truth will come out and you will find peace.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paying The Attorney Bills

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In the past few weeks we have paid a massive amount in legal bills with another gigantic bill still to start working on. This is pretty discouraging. On one hand I feel amazingly blessed that we are even able to finance all this. On another hand I feel really angry at a bio mom who has disregarded all the courts instructions for years...who is the main reason for these repeated trips to court and mounting costs.

We have forfeited our financial future. We will be in financial duress for some years to come. What was once a happy, contented financial future is not very scary to look at. I try to stay hopeful. I try to remember that we are doing this for a little child who can't help herself. I try to remember to follow the message on our currency - In God We Trust. At some deep level I really do have faith that we can overcome this, that all our suffering will be returned to us in rich blessings. Last week I told her dad that his actions are truly godlike. Sacrificing all for her benefit with no promise of repayment, appreciation or benefit. Action taken bravely with only the hope of protecting and helping another.

I must ask all you other stepmoms, how do you deal with the stress of mounting legal bills. Have you had to take on an unexpected job to help chisel down the bills, forego vacations, future dreams and plans? How have you made peace with this financial stress? Please share, we can all benefit from your experience and wisdom gained. Thank you in advance for sharing! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Teaching Children Good Principles

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While it's a very slippery slope and usually very inappropriate to talk badly to a child about his/her parent, in the face of blatantly bad or even illegal behavior, there is something you can do. Teach young children good principles and teach them to recognize what that means. Teach then to understand the damage that is done by lying, breaking promises, and other bad, dangerous and even illegal behavior. Teach them how to live a happy life and do good things - help them to recognize the rewards of such a life. This can easily be done in many small, daily conversations about every day things and through experiences you have during the day.

Then let them learn the power of discernment. If young children learn that telling a lie is wrong and then see their troubled parent do it, a bell goes off in their heads. Even very young children can tell the difference between good behavior and bad behavior, especially if they are taught well at home. If they understand why something is wrong and the ill effects of such behavior they will quickly learn to recognize it and stand up for themselves and what is right with more convictions.

It may also help them to separate how they feel about themselves from the bad behavior of their parent. When children realize that it is their parent who is making bad choices, they can feel more secure about themselves. They can learn that the behavior is their parent's choice. They will learn that it happens in other relationships other than than just the parent-child relationship. Hopefully that helps them not take bad treatment they may receive as a reflection of their own self worth. If you know a person lies, and lies to everyone, you don't take it so personally. It seems very important to help children separate their parents' decisions from the child's feelings of self worth.

While you might sometimes wish you could act out against bad behavior by another parent, it's a no-win situation. But you can stand up for teaching good principles and helping your stepkids on their way to the best, most successful life they can have. Teaching and reinforcing good principles is a beautiful way to be the best stepmom you can be.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Being A Stepmom Taught Me To Handle Criticism

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I realized today something really big. I have learned how to handle criticism. Wahoo! That's exciting. And you know where I learned it? Was it grade school? Nope. At home growing up? Nope. College? Nope. in my career or relationships? Nope. It was from being a stepmom!

The things I have heard about my man, me and our life together in court are so outrageous they would be comical if they were not so potentially devastating to our family. After some time, I believe the judge and everyone involved in the decision making processes for our little one recognized the truth of the situation. Actions speak louder than words. Yes accusations are damaging and extremely hurtful but as time goes along it is usually not difficult to see who is telling the truth and who is not.

Now that the real truth is beginning to come out, there is some relief, but for a long time, dealing with false accusations and criticisms took a real toll on me. I was born the oldest child in my family and was raised in an environment that emphasized integrity and character. Even as a young child, I took my good name very seriously and was probably more devastated than I should've been when I was corrected or got into trouble however small it might be.

But this also taught me to make good choices and always try to be and do my best. That has served me very well throughout my life and has resulted in a very joyful life. However, trying to be good and do good will never protect us from criticism. Being a stepmom has taught me to stand up for what I know is right no matter what anyone else tries to say or do to me or anyone I love. The stakes have just been too high to waver. We are talking about the life of a young child here! And that is something that I realize I am willing to fight for even more than I was willing to learn this lesson for myself in my own life. I am willing to take the hits and deal with it for this precious kid I love so much.

So despite a really unpleasant experience with custody and family courts, things are turning around and I am grateful to realize today that I can take the hits and stand my ground - thanks to a little angel who came into my life. I was willing to learn and grow because it meant protecting her. I am a better woman for it and I know this is trickling out into other areas of my life.

Yes I like to get along and I have always tried to take the reserved, respectful route through any unpleasant situation. I realize now though that sometimes that is the coward's way out and not the brave, courageous soul's way out. Today I am much more willing to be brave and stand up and make my voice heard and fight when necessary. I think this make me a much more well-rounded warrior mom and that is my goal!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Forget The Messy Room. Stop and Snuggle.

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There are often days in the parenting world, where you just have to throw your principled motivations out the front door and love. I remember when my sister realized that when our little cousin was three years old and threw a crazy tantrum that discipline was not the answer. It didn't work. But what did work was just stopping all the crazy and sitting down and holding her tightly and lovingly in your arms. That put an instant end to the tantrums.

A similar thing happened here this past week. It was go to Mom's house day and as the appointed hour drew nearer, the behavior and self control of our little angel went out the window. She has made a major mess of her room and I really wanted her to clean it up before she left. So often in the rush of heading to the other parent's house, clean up gets lost in the shuffle and we often end up cleaning up toys that really should've been cleaned up by Angel.

After asking her to clean her room repeatedly, even after breaking it up into bite size tasks for her, she was in a pile of tears. This is a kid who has always been a good cleaner-upper since she was tiny. Picking up toys and straightening her bed have never been a problem (except, again, in a time crunch). Trying to encourage her didn't work and I realized that this kid was anxious about going back to her mom's unstable home and needed love.

So I threw my parenting expectations and goals out the window, put on a short DVD and snuggled up on the couch with her. I had no more trouble that day. She was calm, pleasant and happy. The next day I started cleaning her room and I did it with a smile, knowing that I put her needs before my want for her to have a clean room. She's learning the lessons she needs to about organization, tidiness and responsibility. There was no need to force feed it that day.

Hopefully she'll remember instead that when she's in distress that we will drop everything to help and love her, that she never need feel alone or scared, that we have a responsibility to care for her and take it very thoughtfully and seriously. I'm so glad I made the right choice for that day. Another day, when it's right for the situation, I'll be a stickler about the room.

Have you found yourself in the cycle and how did you make the right choice? Easy? Hard?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Parental Alienation Must Be Addressed

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Parental Alienation is one of the most devastating issues that can arise during a custody resolution.  I wanted to point you to an important conversation going on over at Since My Divorce. If you have ever experience Parental Alienation I hope you will visit and join in the conversation there. Even more I hope you will find a way you can comfortably and passionately share your story and then share it all you can going forward within the family court, legal, mental health and social circles you interact with.

We have battled Parental Alienation in many forms over the years and have seen the devastating effects it has on children. It has hurt and devastated us, but even worse we have seen the pain and suffering that is brought upon small children by their own parent when they attempt to drive a child away from the other parent.

Here's the link to the post Parental Alienation: A Family's Heartbreak. There are links to several stories by parents who have been down this very sad path. Let's band together and make sure the family court world begins to recognize this and that we stand with fellow parents and give them our support.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Yo-Yo Life of a Stepmom

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When I saw this photo, I had a good laugh because it speaks so much to how I often feel in my life as a stepmom and with a partner who frequently is away on business. One day you are in the center of a busy life, fussing about meals, schedules, activities, implementing family goals and trying your best to raise a little one, have a healthy relationship with your man, and have a home that everyone loves and enjoys being a part of.

Then everyone leaves and it all goes silent. I watch other moms with their kids who they enjoy and get to be around 24/7 and I wish we could have that kind of stability and continuity. I feel sad that we can't make even some simple parenting dreams come true like team sports. It's impossible to get the little one involved in a team when she's in two cities far away from each other for part of each week. Either she misses practices or she misses games or both.

It feels like we are constantly stopping and starting our progress because of continually changing custody arrangements put upon on us by the court. Family traditions have to be fluid because you don't spend every holiday together every year and frankly you don't know what to expect each year, things always seem to change. I constantly have to say no to really fun family events because my family won't be around. I have to get used to the deafening silence when they leave me here alone. One day I'm making three meals a day and then for up to a few weeks I'm not even making a meal for myself. Sometimes I feel like the central figure in a family and then suddenly feel like the star of Single And Alone In The City.

Even more demoralizing is to realize that it will always be this way. We will always share this child. We will always have her for only part of the time. Most frustrating of all is that this is despite her wishes, her dad's wishes and my wishes.

So while I continue to find my way through this sometimes shocking yo-yo life, I have to find a way to count my blessings, let go of feelings of failure than can sneak in when we can't be like "normal" families and look at all the good we can enjoy. And when I have down time, it's a good time to rest up, make plans and look forward to the good days together.

Can you relate to my yo-yo life? How do you manage it? I'd love you to share.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It Goes Quickly So Enjoy Every Moment

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Yesterday I knew it was time to go through the Little One's closet and drawers and pull out all the clothes and shoes that don't fit anymore. It's a task I have to do every few months. This time it was particularly emotional when I pulled out the last of the clothes we bought her a couple of years ago. Clothes she first wore when she was transitioning from tiny toddler girl clothes into legitimate big girl clothes a couple sizes too big. Some of her, my and her Dad's all time favorites.

The little white shirt with the blue embroidery down the front that she wore to the 4th of July parade two years ago. We have the most darling photo of her standing on her aunt's lap, clapping her hands, with her hair in two braids trimmed in red, white and blue ribbons.

The light pink shirt with all the red, purple and fuchsia flowers all over it is going too. This was a shirt that would go with anything and she has worn with so many different pants, skirts and shorts over the years. She mentioned a few weeks ago how sad she was to see that one go.

The white tee shirt with the appliqued fish in the fishbowl is too short for her now. She's a tall girl. That was one of her favorites too. Awww, sad to see it go.

Saying goodbye to all those clothes really just represents saying goodbye to sweet days we'll never get back. She's not a little girl anymore. She's getting taller all the time. She can read to herself. She can dress herself, shower herself...so many things she used to need her dad and me desperately for. As much as I enjoy having more free time, I miss her needing us so much. Not that she doesn't still need us, but it's different now and it will keep changing.

We'll never have that little speed demon who Daddy had to run after at full speed when she would take off down the sidewalk, across the park or towards the road. I won't be able to pick her up for much longer. All this reminds me to enjoy every day, they go so fast and you never get them back. And it inspires me to enjoy every day to come because I know I will look back on them with deep love and joy down the road.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Competing With Mom VS. Blessing The Child

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I recently heard an accusation made against a stepmother. The claim was that she was trying to replace the bio mother. That got me thinking about what my goals and efforts as a stepmom are. I pondered that for a while. What was my motus operandi anyway?

Initially, when I first learned my new guy was a father, I was sad, nervous and fearful about what that would mean for my life if we made a lifelong commitment. I knew immediately that it would mean there would always be another woman. And another woman who was unable to get along with my guy. There would also be a child that would be passed back and forth between us. That would complicate things.

Things changed for the better the first weekend I spent with my guy and his child. It was an instant click. It was good, fun, sweet, charming. It was awesome. From that point my goal was to be the kindest, sweetest, most loving stepmom I could. In time my role evolved a lot into home-pre-school teacher, cook, reading partner and much more.

My hope was that I would be able to keep my mouth shut and be polite when it came to the other woman. A smile from the distance. For the most part that has worked, but there have been times when I have had to go Mama Bear and stand up for my man and his little one. I'm honestly not afraid to do that if necessary. I'm saying that with the understanding that it has only happened 2-3 times in years.

This week I sat down and looked back on my stepmom performance, analyzed what my motives were and tried to take a mature look at what I can do to do it all with more wisdom, intelligence and less worry. It can be challenging to stay focused on what those motives are when you are dealing with constant game playing and seeing your partner and his child continually hurt.

But I reasserted for myself that my goal is and must be the health and well-being of this child. My goals must be focused on the health and well-being of our family. Anything other than that is a distraction and if obsessively focused on, a big mistake on my part. So I'll keep plugging along, focusing every day on that mantra. No matter what problems and criticisms might come. That brings me a great deal of peace and helps me see my path going forward.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Building A Community of Fellow Stepparents

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We had another good day at the courthouse recently that reminded me of what so many other stepparents, attorneys, social workers and child advocates have said.

Keep doing what you're doing. Keep putting your child(ren) first. Follow the court order and show the court who you are and the life you are creating for your child(ren). Eventually the court will see the situation and realize who is causing problems and what is in the best interests of the child.

Having that faith and keeping securely on that path can be a tough one. That's when having a support network helps. Last summer a young woman came up to me and complimented me after watching my stepdaughter and I together at a museum. When she heard I was the actually the stepmother, she was even more pleased and shared with me a story of her own amazing stepmother and how stepmom and her father fought for her for eight years before her father was finally able to get custody.

She has become a treasured blessing and family friend as we have continued to uncover over the past year that her story is almost identical to our Little One's experience with her mother's addiction and abuse. These two girls, 18 years apart, have become dear friends and there is no one better to help teach our Little One what she must do when she finds herself in a bad situation with her mother.

For me, online connections with other stepmoms has given me a real boost on those days when we are worn down and discouraged from this long and muddied effort to protect this little girl. Sharing our experiences, knowledge and courage is an amazing gift to other families and especially parents who are going down the often difficult and costly road of protecting their children's best interests within the court/legal system.

If you are discouraged, let me encourage you to seek out other stepparents who can be positive influences for you. There are some great bloggers out there sharing inspiring stuff. If you are in a period of calm encourage other stepparents you may find who are struggling. It is so easy to get bogged down in all the negative feelings this situation breeds, but staying positive, focusing on the kids and living your life well is the happiest path for sure!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Be Positive With Family, Take Complaints to God

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It's been my luck to come upon wise words for marriage and family life from many different directions the past few weeks. One of the ideas that has really stuck with me is the idea that we are loving, supportive, respectful and kind to our families. We do not spend our energy trying "to fix" them. Rather than publicly or privately criticizing, we can take our concerns to God and ask Him to help our loved one to grow and overcome their weaknesses. We can also ask God how we can support His plan for them.

Yes, we should love, guide and teach by example. But it is not our responsibility to fix them. It is God's fatherly calling to teach and develop them. We are there to help in that process. And as mere humans, we often do not share in the magnitude of God's vision for our spouse or families. We may not truly see who they are or who they can become. We just know that things annoy us and we, especially women, feel the need to point that out...sometimes constantly.

I have been trying to put this to the test this past week. I have caught myself several times from wanting to lecture my dear partner for little things I think he "should" do better. Of course, catching myself every time, I realize that my imperfect emotions are not the perfect teacher nor should they be.

When I see God working in his life and in the life of our little one, I am amazed, thrilled, overjoyed but most importantly humbled. It's easy to forget that just like me, they are continually being guided, taught and loved from above. I would do well to stand down and let Him above take control rather than trying to wrestle it away from Him and my family members. I am here to love and guide. I am a helper, not the captain. I should ask Him what I can do for them, rather than spend my energy telling them what they need to do for my expectations. It sounds so ludicrous, doesn't it, to forget these things, but we so easily forget them every day.

Try to go without criticizing or feeling the need to correct another. Even if that's not who you really are, chances are you will catch yourself thinking or acting on something that should not be in your control. This is something that I really want to work on. I am going to focus on praying for the blessing of my partner and family members and avoid any context of trying to show them their weaknesses or air complaints. I will pray to let God teach and help them grow and ask what I can do to bless and support His plan for them.

I'll let you know how it goes. Is this something you find challenging too? I'd love to hear about your journey to "let go and let God" with in your family. Sending you and your dear family warmest wishes for your joy and success.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life's Joy Comes In Moments

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I've been thinking about a day we had last July, a year ago this very week in fact and a life lesson I learned that day that has forever changed how I appreciate my life. Our custody situation has been very stressful due to dealing with some pretty serious factors with the coparent and a court system that refused to stand up for our little one. Her Dad and I have aged considerably in every way over the past few years due to the massive stress that we have been dealing with and the stresses that our custody ordeal has put on ever other facet of our lives, especially financial.

Last July was a particularly stressful period and we were having to do a great deal of preparation for court. Daddy was working 15 hour overnight shifts, with only a few hours to sleep and eat before he had to return to work - 7 days a week for three weeks. He was able to get one day off of work so that we could focus our efforts on the court case. We decided that we would make a quick family trip to the beach to get some fresh air and try to decompress a little. We gave ourselves a two hour deadline and then it was back to work. We had an amazing time and it was the most fun time we'd had in a long time. It felt so good to walk up and down the beach, to play in the sand and it was such a joy to see our little one enjoying herself so much with us.

When that two hours were up, we both felt impressed that it was in our family's best interests to stay and make a day of it - despite that fact that it seems to be a disastrous decision for the court case preparations. But we went with our instincts and stay and truly unwound and felt such a wave of peace come over us. Despite being in one of the worst periods of our lives, we were experiencing joy, calm, peace, AND happiness!

I learned that day that our greatest joys and happiness can any day and every day, even when it seems the world is crashing down around us. I learned that there are moments to love and cherish - to have astounded gratitude for - every day. Now I look for those moments in the every day and I treasure them and thank God for them. These moments are the great gifts of my life - my joy, my treasures more valuable than any other gift. Even in the worst of days, we can experience joy and see blessings come to us.

In the end we were able to be prepared for court and we came to realize that our preparations were not necessary for that day. This is also a reminder to me to follow my instincts and try to reduce pressure we put on ourselves unnecessarily. Great lessons all around and great memories from that day at the beach.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Making The Best of Weekly Goodbyes

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We had a tough goodbye this past week. Splitting time between two households for a young child must be incredibly difficult. Because I had a mother and father married and living in the same house growing up, I will never truly know what that feels like. But I do know what it feels like to have a much loved stepchild come and go from our house every week.

Life at her other home is incredibly unstable and difficult on her and it breaks my heart every week to have to deliver her back to that place. Rest assured that we have over many years done everything we can to ensure her safety and well-being and continue to do that. But we have to follow court procedure, etc. I am sure I am not the only stepmom frustrated with that reality.

In our home we all get sad the day we know she is leaving. We had to find a way to combat that for all our sakes. It all starts by everyone getting sad and on edge and at times disintegrate from there. So we all decided that for all our sakes we should decide not to spend one minute of our time together unhappy and sulking. We should love every moment and make the most of it. We were only hurting ourselves if we let something we couldn't change bring unhappiness to us, especially on our last day of the week together.

Do we still get sad, absolutely, but do we join together and chase those blues out the door and remind each other that we are going to love every moment we have together? YES! Because we all understand that sadness, we can help each other overcome it quickly with gentle reminders and lots of hugs. It's amazing that we all take turns being the one to remind each other to be happy and love our time together. We try to find something to keep us busy so we don't think too much about that drop-off that is coming up. It makes the long drive to drop-off much easier when we have all dealt with our emotions before we leave home.

Last week the sadness began to creep in and the "I'm really, really, really going to miss you" lines started being spoken. Hugs were getting a little more desperate and smiles were turning upside down. But we had a little meeting of the hearts, sitting on the kitchen counter and reminded ourselves that we don't want to be sad when we're together, we want to make the best of every moment we have. And it worked. It always does and thank goodness we found this little strategy together and it works so well for our family. It's good to know we'll all be there for each other to pick up sagging spirits and love our time together. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Frustrating Teaching Experiences With Kids Pay Off Later

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Two events from the past are fresh in my memory this week. First is the months we spent with dinner time virtually ruined as we struggled with our little one to get her to eat the healthy food on her plate. It became a long, miserable experience to sit down for dinners and deal with a three year old who refused to eat. My stomach would hurt at the end of every meal.

We did not push, but just encouraged her to take 2-5 bites of anything on her plate. She would try to distract us, avoid sitting down, or just ignore us. She would suddenly start rubbing her eyes and complaining of being VERY tired and wanting to go to bed or that she had to go to the bathroom. Once she realized that we would be consistent with our expectations at mealtime, everything changed. Now she is a great eater and will eat almost anything.

She's learned to try two bites of anything new because she realizes now that the first bite of something new is never very likable, but a second try can be good. She will eat mountains of fresh spinach and will try any fruit or vegetable. Every time I am around children who won't eat anything good for them, I thank my stars for an "easy food kid."

The other thing that has very much on my mind lately is when she was two or three and would beg me to let her help to housework. I decided I should try to involve her as much as possible at that age. My hope was that as she got older she would to accustomed to the expectation that she participate in caring for our family and home and that she would have a positive feeling about working in the home because of good experiences she had had with us. This decision meant that often things took much longer than necessary while I threw my speedy flow out the window and allowed her to take part. That often became tedious, especially when we were tired. It also required a lot of patience because sometimes she created way more work than she accomplished.

This week I have been deep cleaning the house and she has been a phenomenal help. She still begs to let her wash the pots and pans. She loves to race against me to finish emptying sections of the dishwasher. And she is still quite young. But she's confident in her place in the home and family. She's been doing small chores around the house for three years now. And she's also not intimidated or annoyed to learn new chores and take on more responsibility. Yes, there are times when she would rather play than work, but it doesn't take much to get her to help out.

The final element of this all is showing lots of appreciation. It's important to us for her to know she is a loved, valuable and very appreciated member of our family. We give a lot of earned praise and lots of love and affection.

These little decisions and things we were consistent on have paid off in a huge way. Now we can look back on those frustrating days and smile with thanks that we made it through and we are reaping the rewards every day. Looking forward to her teenage years, we hope that the time we've invested now will help us get through those days too. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Good Cry

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Yesterday I had a good chat with Papa Lion, my man, about his daughter and all the excruciatingly painful things we have gone through to protect her and fight for her well-being and safety. At times it has seemed a hopeless effort, one in which our lives seemed destined to be crushed and destroyed by lies and false accusations. We have long feared for our financial sovereignty as the court and legal costs continued to mount into astronomical amounts for a situation that should have been an open and shut case. 

There were times when she was kept from us for days, weeks and even months. We know she has been manipulated and even physically hurt. And we continued to fight. We take every step possible, contact every agency possible, report every issue possible. And we still continue to fight to this day, knowing that family court is nothing if not unpredictable and reckless in its whims and decision making processes. This is a dangerous game we live in and it is not for the faint of heart. I know we are not the only family in this boat. There are thousands if not millions of others who share our terrifying story.

Last night as we knelt down to pray, I just sobbed. I sobbed for her and all her suffering, I sobbed for her Dad and all the stress, fear and frustration this has brought up on him. I cried for all of us as we have fought the good fight, often with little hope of success. But I think what I can truly attribute those tears to is the knowing deep in my heart, that for this little angel and all she has brought to my life, her Dad's life and our families lives, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Every terrifying moment has been worth it to see the shine in her face and feel the warmth of her hugs and her joy and enthusiasm when she is in our home. While I cannot control the lack of adult supervision and exposure to unsavory things she experiences in one part of her life, her Dad and I can give her the world, a world of hope, faith, happiness and peace in our home.  And that effort is worth all we have in us. We already reap the rewards in every moment we are privileged to spend with her.




Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Banish Boredom With 10 Fun Things To Do

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It's summer in the northern hemisphere and it's proving to be a hot one. And for parents with school age kids it's a short break in the long school year routine and the chance to make meaningful and lasting memories with them. It's amazing how excited they get when you tell them you have "something special planned." Some of my best memories of my childhood are the times my parents surprised us with a fun day trip. If you're running short on fresh ideas, here are a few to inspire you.

1. Go to a local botanical garden.
2. Go to the Zoo.
3. Escape the heat by visiting all your local museums.
4. Visit local historical sites.
5. Check out all your local parks.
6. Make plans with a group of moms & kids once a week for the summer.
7. Attend summer kids movie programs in your city.
8. Plan and execute a service project every week.
9. Plant and tend a small garden.
10. Take part in summer art programs & local kids camps

What are you doing with your kids that excites you this summer? Please share. We all need fresh ideas and I love all the originality and creativity out there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Listening To My Voice Around The House

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I saw a couple the other day and heard the wife speaking to her husband in a very demeaning and disrespectful tone over something that he innocently asked. Her tone made me feel terrible and it saddened me to imagine what that feels like to a husband or child. I can only imagine how many divorces have been greatly influenced by the inability to speak kindly to each other. It gave me pause to think about how my voice sounds with my loved ones.

Yesterday I heard Joel Osteen say that the greatest gift a wife can give her husband is to honor him, to treat him with respect. It's amazing how it's often hardest to show love and respect to those closest to us. It's easy to get into bad habits in our homes, to allow negative tones, impatience and tiredness deeply affect the way we talk to our family members.

How does my voice sound? Do I sound like someone I would want to meet on the street, work with in an office or have for a spouse or parent? Do I sound critical, fretful and worried about every step every one takes? Or do I sound courageous,  loving and supportive? I will admit there have been times when I have heard my own voice sound much more ornery, critical and unkind than I would ever hope to sound. I have quickly apologized and made renewed commitments to do better. I'm recommitting to check in with myself regularly to see what it is that my family is seeing and hearing from me.

I set the tone by how I speak in my home and family. We women also have a big influence on how we allow others to speak in our homes too. Think what good spouses those kids will be down the line if they learn to speak with honor and respect to their family members in our homes. It's a good practice to get in to and definitely makes for a happier home every day. I hope that the sounds of our home will be remembered as sweet, loving and kindly music.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Enjoy Great Summer Days With Family

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It's summertime in the northern hemisphere and a big holiday season in the U.S. The past four days have been sun up to sun down fun with different groups of friends, lots of big family-friendly events, packing, house cleaning, travel and more big fun events with family and friends.

I will confess that I am a little tired and have several times questioned my sanity regarding participating in so many fun events in such a short period of time. I think of my fellow parents out there who are scrambling to take kids on cross country trips, to amusement parks, big community events and so much more this summer. I'm sending you my encouragement and any energy I have to spare.

Thinking back on my own childhood, those are the times I have the best memories of: the trips to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, NorCal and SoCal, camping trips, visits to cousins and more. I have no doubt my parents were usually exhausted before we even got out of the driveway. And I am sure it was a little tedious for them frequently. It's very possible that there were times when they just didn't know how they would afford to take us to fun places.

The value of my childhood experiences and memories make all the efforts I've made this past week feel more than worth it -- and make me feel very grateful for my parents, knowing now what it took to get us on those trips. So to all you parents out there, I promise you you'll catch up on your rest, you'll forget how tired, sore, frustrated, impatient and regretful you might have felt. You will have great moments with your kids and make memories to last a life time.


You can do it! It will mean the world to your kids. Life passes by too quickly and soon they'll hopefully be doing the same for their kids and you'll be able to look on and smile, knowing what they went through to get there. Go get 'em Stepmommas! You can do it. Make their lives amazing. They'll never forget you for it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Never Take Them For Granted

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All my people are gone and I am alone this week. Going from family hustle and bustle to complete silence takes some getting used to. Somewhat thankfully, I've been doing this for several years now, so I'm rather used to it, but it never ceases to be unsettling. The difference is that now I have the comfort of knowing that there is a routine to the strange feelings I experience and it's okay to feel weird for a day or two. Then my natural energies kick in and I have so many things I want to accomplish while I have the time that I zip right along and the time usually goes pretty quickly.

But invariably at some point in the day I feel deeply lonely and sad - all alone in the world. It's usually just for an instant or two. Yesterday it was twice. Once when I locked myself out of the house because I lost my keys somewhere between our two cars. One of the cars I had the keys to in my hand, but I feared the keys were locked in the other one. It was stressful and made worse by the feeling that I was all alone and didn't have my backup man. I resolved to get a spare set either hidden somewhere or to a neighbor or both at that moment.

The other moment happens almost daily. It seems to happen at about 9:30 every night. The day is ending, it's dark, and it's too late to call anyone. Thank goodness it passes quickly because it usually strikes as I'm walking around the house cleaning up or putting something away. But it stings intensely for a minute or so.

All this reminds me to not take my loves for granted. Not to let little things annoy me. To appreciate every day that I am tired, worn out and looking at a messy house. The comfort and joy I feel in those days far outshines the loneliness of a perfectly quiet, silent house. Life moves quickly, we lose people we love, kids grow up and move far away. I don't want to regret not appreciating every moment I have with my loves.

I hope I'll remember how I feel today the next time I feel short of patience or fussy about lack of time for myself. Until they do return, I'm taking time for myself to keep myself healthy, happy and strong so that I'll feel good when they return and I'll be good to them too. Must remember how blessed I am despite all the challenges. I am very blessed.

How about you? Do you feel lost when everyone vanishes? Is it hard for you to remember that feeling when all is chaos in the house and you wish you had a magic want to make them all disappear? What do you do to help you remember to appreciate it all? Sending you my very best wishes for peace and happiness in this day!

Monday, June 25, 2012

52 Things Kids Need From A Mom

image via Angela Thomas

Had to share this wonderful book with all of you stepmoms. It had me crying three times in the first few chapters. Written by Angela Thomas, this book is a collection of essays on simple things you can do to bless your kids lives. It is full of love, grace, wisdom and inspiration to help you keep your eye on the important things, create a love-filled home and help your kids thrive. I love that the title is 52 Things Kids Need From A Mom. Not "their" mom or "the woman who gave birth to them" but anyone who stands in the role of mother in a child's life.

I found that it quickly began to change me, change the conversations I was having with Daddy and increasing my vision and perspective about mothering. I immediately began to think about my role as a stepmother on a higher plane, with more understanding of how I could bless my family and it made me realize how I could have more satisfaction as a mom too. I will never wave goodbye to our little one in the same way again after reading Angela's book.

It's a great gift for any mother or soon-to-be mom or stepmom too. If you choose one thing for each week, during the course of the year you could dramatically strengthen your home and the bonds you have together. What a beautiful, simple, and life-changing gift. Check out 52 Things Kids Need From A Mom available at Angela Thomas online store and bookstores everywhere. Angela has also written many other inspiring books you may be interested in so take a browse through the store. Hope you'll enjoy this book!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Blessings of a Stepmom Community

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What a great week it's been connecting with awesome stepmoms. Sara's beautiful post really got the conversation going and I'm sure it inspired a lot of stepmoms. I really enjoyed reading all the comments on the post and that Sara got back on Facebook. Her words obviously resonated with a lot of women.

One of the comments that really stuck with me was from a woman who has been a stepmom for over four decades. So often we think of the majority of our work being just getting these kids safe and alive through high school graduation and college, but really being a stepmom is a lifetime calling. I appreciated so much that perspective from a few years down the road. Even when they are in middle age, if you have a great relationship they are going to appreciate you influence as a parent in their lives. Love that.

The other idea that comment sparked was the depth of knowledge and wisdom there is out in the stepmom community. Besides having friends your same age to learn from surely we all have older and younger friends, family and neighbors who have valuable wisdom to share if we will just ask. One of my favorite things to do is just ask people to share their wisdom about a specific topic with me. People so rarely get asked to share their wisdom and I think they appreciate it. They also enjoy sharing it. It's amazing how they will always say something that resonates with me, inspires me and helps guide my journey ahead.

So I'm going to make a bigger effort to reach out to other stepmoms and enjoy their wisdom. It will make my path brighter and better every day. Sending you very best wishes for your home and sweet families!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sara W. - Embrace Second Place


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Editor's Note: So thrilled to introduce inspired stepmom Sara. I think you'll be able to relate to her emotional experience finding her way as a stepmom and find inspiration in the lessons she's learned. It definitely triggered some heartfelt feelings when I read it and her wisdom has stuck with me as I think about my own family.
  
A whole decade into it, I still sometimes feel like I need stepmothering school. Don’t get me wrong. I knew what I was getting into, and the husband and the darling toddler were worth the trouble ten times over. Still, it’s not exactly what I had expected. Stepmothering is hard. But there are saving graces, the greatest of which for me has been learning to embrace my spot in second place. This has saved me over and over again, more so every time I re-learn it.

My awakening to my standing as second mom came early on. We had been married for about eight months. The boy was three. I would pick him up from daycare on my way home from work, and we would sing songs and talk all the way home. He was full of questions and imagination. He would call me Mom, but he was not confused. I asked him why he called me that, and he grinned and said, “Because you’re my stepmom.”

It lasted until the day his mother picked him up from our house, and he energetically waved to me from the car and shouted, “Bye, Mom!” The next time I saw him, he caught himself calling me Mom, corrected his mistake, and told me he wasn’t allowed to call me that anymore because he only had one mom.

Ouch doesn’t begin to cover it. So naturally I put up a protective shield. I could not allow myself to love this little child that freely or openly again. It was too risky. I could get hurt emotionally, maybe even killed. For several years, I was more reserved. I still loved him; I was just not quite so unrestrained about it. I didn’t like the situation. I knew I was a good mother, and I wrestled mentally with my second-chair status.

But I began to accept it. I would laugh off the “You’re not my real mom!” moments with responses like, “OK, but would you like a real peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” He would laugh too. I even learned, when he would say he liked his mom better, to say, “Oh, I like her too,” and the tension would dissolve.

That’s how the light came on. I didn’t have to be number one. I just needed to open my arms (and the tougher one, my heart) to the boy when he’s here. Yes, when he’s here, he is mine. Right? Almost. That attitude, while well-intentioned, missed the mark. I was still trying to have some moments where I could be number one. And here’s why that just didn’t work for us.

Treating him like he was mine meant shoving him into the mold of our home and expecting him to fit. People would ask me if I thought it confused him to be expected to follow our rules. My response was always, “Of course not!” After all, he’s a smart kid. If he can understand the different sets of rules at school, church, and his friends’ houses, I’m pretty sure he can get how we run things around here. Besides, he is part of this family, and he can function as such. I may not be his real mom, but I’m the mom of this house.

Treating him like he was mine also meant that our way of raising him would be undone as soon as he went back to his mom’s. She had different rules for movie and video game ratings, sleepovers, bedtimes, almost everything, it seemed. So while these things were not confusing to him, they were frustrating to him and to us, and more importantly, they ignored who he was.

One day when I was unloading my frustration on my sister, she asked me why I was so worried about what this kid does and doesn’t do. Is she crazy? I thought. Because he’s my kid! “No, he’s not,” she corrected me. The light went on again, only this time a little brighter. My job is to love, not to try to raise him as I would if I were his only mother. Not only do I not have to treat him like he’s mine, I shouldn’t!

We now bend the rules in our home for him. Don’t get me wrong. Our house is still ours. It’s business as usual on the day-to-day things. But on the big issues, I step back and let his dad work it out with his mom (his real mom).

I love this kid. And I have learned to accept what is. It’s not just OK if he doesn’t love me quite the way he loves his first mom, it’s appropriate. The more he matures, the more I see that he is hers. He thinks like her. His sense of humor has glimmers of her. His attitudes are hers. That is as it should be. She is his mom. She is number one.

I am his stepmom. I am number two. And the way I see that is this: it’s actually a high station. Being someone’s second mom is an honor. It’s one step away from the real thing. Once I embraced that, it freed me up to freely love a great kid.

Sara W. became a stepmom in 2002, and she and her husband have since welcomed three additional children to their family. She has been a professional writer since 1997 when she earned a degree in English from Brigham Young University. After she became a mother, Sara began freelancing so that she could continue to do what she loves while putting her real job, being a mom, first. Sara and her family live in Utah. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day : Teach them to Appreciate Their Dad

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On this Father's Day weekend, one of the best gifts you can give your husband is to help your stepkids see how much he loves them, all the good he does, learn who he is and teach them to show their love and appreciation for him. Stepkids learn a lot from how you talk about their dad. You can  help them see what a great guy their dad is when you take a few moments to compliment their dad in front of them and others. 

Talk to them about their dad's many talents and strengths. Make sure they see the many hours he works to support the family, to help them and to keep the home running smoothly. Most importantly when you are gracious and kind to their dad in word and deed you set a tone for the home that others will follow.

Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there!


P.S. Monday I'll post a great guest post by stepmom Sara about learning to make peace with stepmomhood. If you'd like to share a guest post or great inspiration about stepmomhood get in touch here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stepmoms Must Stop Cyberbullying Their Stepkids

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It's happened to all of us at some point. We find out someone dislikes us and has been spreading unkind words about us. Now it happens online and we call it cyberbullying. It hurt deeply when this happened to you, didn't it? It's painfully unnerving to find that there are people who wish us ill rather than hope for our best success.

Now imagine being a kid who's suffered through the break up of your home and family and then had your parents invite new spouses into their lives whether you like it or not. And that you're left living a half-life in two places, shuttled between these two homes until your 18-years-old whether you like it or not. Then, stand in that kid's shoes and imagine that the new spouse is sharing gossip about you online.

That can't help make life any easier. Stepmoms, treat your stepkids like you would like to be treated. It doesn't matter whether they treat you well or horribly. You are the grown up and you have to act like it. When you speak unkindly about your stepkids online you are participating cyberbullying. Yes, cyberbullying.

Live the golden rule. You willingly joined this family. These kids have no choice and are stuck with you (like it or not you aren't perfect either) and with all the circumstances brought into their lives by all the adults' decisions and actions. Have some compassion for these kids and have the maturity to be supportive and kind. And remember what we've always heard, "if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all."

Your spouse deserves your loyalty and best wishes for the success of his children. If you aren't on board with that, you have made a terrible mistake offering to join this family.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Keep Your Family Laughing

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When you think about your spouse or your best friends what are the things you remember most about them and keep you feeling close to them? I think of two things. First that they stand by you in bad times and offer love. Second, all the times you've laughed together so hard that you were crying and breathless.

As the mom of your household, you have a massive amount of power on the mood in the house. In fact you hold almost all the power in the situation. Husbands and kids are brought down or raised up by the tone you set for the home. Even if they come home in a terrible mood you have a big impact on how they'll handle it once they get inside the front door.

If you set a light-hearted, cheerful tone to the home, they will look forward to being there and being near you. If you are tired, dragged down by household upkeep, and take things a little too seriously, you will find yourself in a house where people hide in the farthest room from where you are: the basement, their bedrooms, the garage, the backyard -- or at someone else's house.

There are many studies that show that children laugh many times more a day than adults do. It's time to turn that around. Be someone who laughs. Be cheerful. Do whatever it takes to keep your mood light. Watch a silly TV show. Share jokes as a family. Watch ridiculous YouTube videos. Be playful and fun.

People are always more important than tasks. You will always be rewarded in your relationships when you put them first. I have had many times lately where I have stopped & realized that someone in my family needed me and my love that very moment. Like a clap of thunder over my head, I felt impressed to stop and go spend time with that person.

Comically, this often happens when that person is being a bit of a pest trying to get my attention, which brings more emotions of annoyance than love and patience. (Hey, I'm laughing about that, how about you...are you laughing?) But when I see what they are really trying to communicate it's easy to put frustration and whatever task I'm doing aside and go have some fun and give some love. It's always a blessing to me and to them in the end.

While it's so easy to feel we're the ones guiding getting everything done in the family and around the house, I bet we'd be much better off putting ourselves in charge of happiness, laughter and fun. Imagine how much impact that could have on your family every day! Powerful! Laugh it up, Mama! Laugh it up! Go have some fun today.

Here are some links to get you laughing:
Aha Jokes On Parenting & Parents