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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Stepping Through Mothers Day

The best word that I can use to describe blended family dynamics is "complicated."  Because motherhood is such an emotionally charged role, the event of Mothers Day has the potential to trigger feelings that range from disappointment, joy, despair, longing and bitterness.  Being a stepmother is a gift, but this kind of motherhood must be embraced with the right perspective and with wisdom.

One thing I have to remember, my stepdaughters were raised with a different attitude toward holidays than me.  In my family of origin, we took every opportunity to celebrate ... including those notorious "Hallmark Holidays."  So, we always made a big deal out of our mother on her special day.  My steps don't do cards and such, but they like to make memories.  We are more likely to enjoy a special meal or a hike together.  Expecting cards or gushy words would be a setup for disappointment.

In addition, it is realistic for me to remember that these girls have a mother who is involved in their lives.  One of the best ways I can support them is to encourage a healthy relationship with their mother.  I don't want them to feel torn in any way and loving her does not diminish our own unique relationship.  Honoring her is the right and healthy thing to do.  So as I made plans for this Sunday, I mentioned to Mr. Wonderful that I assumed his girls were having lunch with their mother?  Yes, indeed.

If you are a stepmom, keep in mind:
  • Don't force or expect step children to do something special on this day.  For me, it helped to break any tension and speak out by saying something like, "I'm glad to be your stepmom and I know your mother feels so lucky to be your mama!"  Silence and unspoken expectations only lead to insecurity for all people involved.
  • Children may feel torn or that acknowledging you somehow lessens the day for their own mother.  Mother-loyalty will trump stepmom affection.  This depends entirely on how their mother regards your role in their life, which is out of your control.
  • One sibling may want to honor you, while another feels awkward or disloyal.  That's okay!  We know we have unique relationships with each of our family members.
  • It's okay to let your husband know you would like to go to lunch or spend the day with him.  He might take this opportunity to honor the role you have in helping with his children.  After all, you get a great deal of the responsibility without much of the glory.  If no one else honors your role, enact some serious self care and honor yourself with a day of relaxation or whatever else makes you smile!  Remember, this one day does not define you or the important role you play in your home.
  • Some people celebrate Stepmother's Day or Step Family Day - would this work for you?
Are you a stepmom?  How do you feel on this day?  What things make you feel treasured at home?  Did you have a stepmother?  Did the way you acknowledge her change through the years.  Are you married to a stepmom?  How will you show your appreciation?  

My First STEP Mothers Day

Stepmom Magazine

Sisterhood of Stepmoms

Stepmom Blog

Monday, April 27, 2015

Moody Monday

I'm just jumping in with a quick update to keep things rolling here on the ole' blog.  It's been a doozy of a week!  As is usual for our spring, we are deeply entrenched in the soccer season.  These last two weeks are extra busy as we are making up for games rescheduled due to bad weather early in the season.  It's fun for me, but I don't know how Mr. Wonderful balances all the responsibility!

Stepdaughter #1 has made her college selection and will be heading to Furman University in the fall.  It's where her dad, mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles attended before and now she will be the first in this generation.  I'm so thrilled that the decision has been made.  As we attend all the senior ceremonies, I well-remember what it felt like to be on the cusp of adulthood with so much possibility before her.  I'm excited for her, indeed!

My firstborn is winding up his elementary school years and he's so excited about going to middle school.  I was recently reminded of the academic trouble we had early on and I'm so grateful and proud of the way he has excelled. He's on a unique team that has been invited to the Destination Imagination global competition AND he's heading out to Washington DC with classmates soon.  I'm so proud of him, my heart may explode!

My littlest guy has been battling a surprise infection for the past week.  An aggressive bacteria showed up in a wound on his face and he has missed school, activities, and has spent too much time at the doctor in the past week.  Poor little guy.  This mama hates seeing her baby's face marred, but I'm so hopeful that it seems to be on the mend.

My in-laws are arriving for a visit this week.  We have soccer games, gymnastics, school events and more.  I've still been purging every day this month and I'll do an update on that soon.  This life is full and crazy, but I love it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Six Simple Steps to keep Smiles on the Children in Your Wedding

I was a single mama who had the amazing blessing of marrying my own Mr. Wonderful almost two years ago.  Naturally, our children were included in the wedding - the youngest two were the flower girl and ring bearer.  We also had quite a few child guests.  Here are few things I found helpful.

1) Play Dress Up with the actual wedding garments.  Little children aren't always used to wearing such fine clothing and may feel awkward.  Allowing them to wear the whole ensemble a couple of times in advance sets the stage for them to feel good and to anticipate the day.  On this same note, select garments appropriate for children - my boys loved wearing their black Chuck Taylors! 

2) Take a few formal photos during the dress-up time.  Children aren't patient for wedding photography and some of my favorite individual photos are from a week or so prior to the wedding when the kiddos were trying on their attire.  We were all more relaxed and the focus was on them rather than the bride and groom.  This will let their sweet personalities really shine!

3) Give yourself the gift of a "Children's Assistant" so that you are not feeling responsible for them on your big day.  This can be the child's parent or another family member/sibling. Let this person be in charge of the children's wardrobe, floral embellishments and wedding accessories (baskets, pillows, petals, all the works!).  The same person should be responsible for the children during photo time and be their attendant if they are included at your reception.  Speaking of photos, list all the scenes that include children and have your photographer get those done first.  This avoids wardrobe malfunctions and lets them relax before the whole thing wears them out too much.

4) Remember they are children.  This day will be exciting for them, but for reasons different than the adults.  They get to dress up!  There is unique lighting and food!  The adults are all in party-mode!  But things can feel long, boring or they have to bee too still and quiet.  Provide a space for them to relax and hang out (maybe even offer video games behind the scenes?).  Consider a children's table with unique games, coloring, bubbles, etc.  This will depend on the style of your day and venue, but if you are inviting children, it's a great memory-making opportunity for them.

5) Ask your photographer to capture their perspective.  A wedding looks and feels different when you're only waist-high and that is a fun perspective to capture.  Floors are suitable seating, candles fun for experiments and all the flowers and lighting transforms any space.  Many young children don't know all the traditions and explaining the meaning or involving them draws them into the ceremony and helps them feel special and included.

6) Let them off the hook.  It may look great in a photo, but practically speaking it isn't wise to require young children to remain still on a platform or stage throughout the ceremony.  Give them a special spot up front with someone assigned just to them to help corral the energy.  This can be the "Children's Assistant" and will be your go-to person for helping with wardrobe, monitoring their needs for snacks, playtime, naps, etc.  Choose a time during a reading, prayer or other transition for them to leave the stage and get settled.  Suggest extra cake or another 'treat' for excellent behavior to motivate them to be still and not be distracting.

Children add a multi-generational dimension to any wedding ceremony and I'm a huge fan of including them.  Work with their charming childishness instead of trying to change that will provide for the best experience for all of you!  

Yes, the shirts were untucked and unbuttoned, the flower girl
was no longer acting very lady-like, but the love and
connection are captured. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Celebrate Friendship, Mothers or Stock Up!

Faith Hope and Love Collection- now in Clearance!
And starting Tuesday, take and extra 40% off of all clearance items. Use code "40CLEAR"
40% off Clearance with code 40CLEAR Best Friends BOGO Sale
Like I said, this is the time to stock up!

(affiliate links are used, thank you!)

Friday, April 3, 2015

"Do You Really Believe That?"

I'm lucky to work for a great little company and our office is closed for Good Friday.  I'm grateful for the time to slow down and to prepare my heart for Easter.  It's privilege for me.  Recently, our company hired a man of another ethnicity and who has recently immigrated to the United States.  As I was explaining to him that this Friday was a company holiday, he asked, "What is Good Friday?"

He had heard of Jesus, and so I explained in a narrative style the cross and the resurrection.  His response to me was, "Do you really believe that?"  I said, yes I do.  I wasn't really sure how to wrap up the conversation, so I invited him to our church's service and promised him lunch is he wanted to come.  I felt awkward at this point and tried to think of a way to wrap up the conversation while leaving the door open for further discussion if it happened naturally.  "Well, I am a pagan who will celebrate the Christian holiday in order to get a day off work," he proudly stated.

It's been a long time since I've been asked whether or not I believe specific portions that are vital to our Christian faith.  I really do believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, was wrongly crucified and that his death satisfied my penalty for wrongs I cannot correct in my own life.  I believe that he rose again all those years ago and continues to live in victory over death and the fallen nature of this world.

Tonight I partook of communion to remember his sacrifice, I thought, "I'm not prepared, my heart isn't pure..." Often I feel the initial panic that I'm not good enough.  And yet, I know I am covered.  My purity isn't what I depend on in order to be in a right relationship with God.  I'm counting on Christ's covering, his purity that covers my own shortcomings.

Thank you, Lord, for this unspeakable gift.  I pray this covering for all of my children and hope my fumbling words and life will somehow point others to the One who can truly save.

What do you believe?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring Tradition

Boots, pumps, flats and sandals! 
It has become a routine of my spring cleaning to purge deeply and in my goals for the year, I declared April as the time to focus on this effort. I started early this weekend by sorting through the kiddos closets.  It was time to make the seasonal switches and in the process I culled what is getting too small.  We donated a large box of boys size 5-6 and another of girls size 6 to a friend who serves special needs children.  I listed several items on ebay and we still have more to donate.

April 1 - I purged my shoes!  Sadly, I there are some that just don't work for my weary feet but still look quite fabulous.  These I'll take to Goodwill.  I'm posting my daily purge on Instagram and I hope you'll follow along or join me! I'm labeling them #outthedoorinapril.  Even if you just purge a little bit, post your success with me.

Thank you for taking interest in our lives.  I blog because I enjoy connecting with readers in any way possible.  I love comments or Facebook friends.  Do add your voice!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Great Fear of Remarriage: Re-Failure

I have a friend who went through a divorce around the same time as me.  We encouraged each other during the single mom years and shared a kindred spirit through the ups and downs that motherhood brings.  Almost a year ago, she reconnected with a high school friend whom had never married.  They began dating and my heart was thrilled when they got married last Thanksgiving.  I could feel her joy and security and I celebrated with her at this new chapter in life.

Less than three months later, she arrived home to find her new husband had packed and moved out, leaving only a note.

Another friend had been divorced had lived alone with her daughter for many years.  She developed a friendship with a widower who had a daughter of similar age and they began to spend a lot of time together.  Their friendship naturally developed into love and the wedding was a celebration for both of the families.

Two years later, the daughters were at extreme odds with one another and the strife drove a wedge between the parents.  They parted ways and regretted their attempt at creating a new family.

Both of these women are strong, capable, wise and loving.  They make choices based on reality and on what they feel the Lord wants.  They considered their children, they loved the men.  They were hopeful and joyful about the opportunity to have a new family.  Their dreams were dashed and their hearts were broken.  Again.

I do believe this is the greatest fear of remarriage - failure, again. The "Again" part makes it so much intense because it would underscore the fact that there has already been a perceived failure.  Taking another risk, is just too much for some to try.

The failed marriages are more common and they seem to get most of the attention.  But there are other women I know who have love, joy and deep satisfaction in marriages that were not their first.  The difference?  It's not that they are more mature or that they married people so much better.  The difference is within her own self: she is wiser, she was discerning when selecting a mate, she considered the cost because she knows the price.

I know a woman who married for the third time and they were best friends and companions for more than thirty years.  Her third husband adopted this woman's son and worked hard to provide for them.  He cared for her at home as she battled cancer and was by her side as she passed from this life to the next.  This was worth the risk.

I have a friend who married for the second time in her twenties, and this husband was loving and kind throughout their years together.  She found acceptance, healing and faithfulness and was cherished until he passed away in their older age.  This was worth the risk.

I would venture to say that every woman who marries for a second (or third, etc,) time enters with some fear and full knowledge of what can go wrong.  We have experienced firsthand how the hope of forever can become a shackle of bondage.  We know that the one who promised to guard our heart can break it.  We have participated in the wreckage that wounds to the core.  We are not innocent.

I have now been remarried for almost two years.  I remember our first fight and the fear rising that perhaps we couldn't make it.  Already there have been times we have both been moving so fast in too many directions and the effort to reconnect just felt like too much to ask.  We have seen our children struggle to make sense of the blending of two families.  I remember the dread of my first fender bender and the horror of my second one!  I hated knowing that my shortcomings affected others.  I struggled to make the house my home.

So when the thought of another failed marriage creeps to the front of my mind, I refuse to believe its lie.  I know that I will chose my husband and he will choose me.  We have the Lord on our side and a healthy support system in place.  I will say "I'm sorry," and I will forgive.  I will rest knowing that God is for me (Psalm 56:9).  He really is!  God used the human tragedy of divorce in my own life to draw me closer to Himself and to reveal His faithful character.  His sovereign will is worked out even in the daily imperfect decisions that we make.

I have another friend.  Her first marriage ended in betrayal and divorce.  She has doggedly determined that she will never remarry.  However, she dates one man regularly and they have combined households.  In attempting to protect her heart, she has become unguarded in her character (if you are reading from a perspective of Bible-based morals).  I understand how this happens, she believes she is protecting herself and her children but she has placed herself in a position without protection legally or spiritually.  The very thing that she thinks would make her vulnerable (marriage) would be what provides what her heart most desperately desires.

What do you observe regarding remarriage?  Have you seen successful second or third marriages?  Does fear paralyze you from risking again?  What might encourage you to try?