The Blended Tribe

Growing Up Blended.

My adorable friend Natalie grew up in a blended home. I’m always asking her questions and asking her how things worked while she was growing up. I got to sit with her the other day (she’s on bedrest, and I was hiding out from our four kids….mama needed a break) and ask her some questions about growing up blended.

1. How old were you when your parents divorced and how many kids did your parents have together?
They were legally separated when I was three years old and divorced by the time I was four years old.
My parents had three girls together; I was the youngest.

2. When did your parents get remarried?
My dad remarried when I was six years old. He started dating his high school sweetheart shortly after my parents got divorced. My mom didn’t remarry until two years ago, but she did start dating about a year after she and my dad got divorced.

3. How many stepsiblings do you have?
I have two stepsisters from my dad’s marriage that I met when I was 5 and grew up with. I also have two stepsisters from my mom’s marriage, but I’ve only met them a handful of times.

4. Did you all get along in the beginning and do you get along now?
We didn’t always get along while growing up. We fought a lot of the time, especially my two middle sisters because they were closest in age. There were five of us girls all around the same age, and we all have strong personalities. We visited my dad and stepmom’s house every other weekend, and he lived about forty-five minutes away. My Dad and stepmom had more money than my mom did, so we often compared ourselves to our stepsisters. They had a lot more material things than we did, which was frustrating at times. I see now that those things don’t matter. Despite living very different lives at each house, all three of my parents made a huge effort to create a sense of equality for us girls. They took us on a lot of family trips and kept us busy with fun activities. We all get along great now that we are adults and we have wonderful memories from growing up, even though we spent a lot of time arguing.

5. Were your mom and stepmom similar or different in raising you?
They were very different, and I think that I benefited from being raised by completely different people. I have a better appreciation and understanding for different walks of life.

6. What was the hardest thing you dealt with growing up in a blended family?
GUILT! I had a lot of guilt over not being able to make two art projects at school for each house, or only having one parent at my soccer games. I wanted them both there for everything and often blamed myself because I didn’t want it to be awkward for them. My parents never made us feel guilty about them getting a divorce; I brought it upon myself.

7. What are your thoughts on marriage?
I knew that I wanted to get married and start a family young and I continued to pray that God would provide a wonderful man for me. Most of my family thought I was crazy and should focus on my education and future career. When I was 19, God blessed me with my sweet Eric, who is the most selfless, loving person I have ever met. He came from a very stable, different upbringing than mine. We balance each other out really well because of this. We got married when I was 20, and he was 23. Because I experienced how difficult a divorce can be firsthand, I have always been adamant that the man God chooses for me to marry will be the ONE I spend the rest of my life with. We have one beautiful girl and another little lady on the way. I have loved every second of our marriage! Even the hard parts, because they have brought us closer as a couple. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ridiculously good looking 😉

8. The most important advice you can give to blended families?
Keep doing the best job you can. You may not see the fruits of your labor now, but you will when your little ones grow up. Make sure your kids know that they’re not the cause of your divorce. Keep them busy in sports and other activities, so they don’t find themselves involved with the wrong crowd. It’s easier for kids with divorced parent’s to stray because they may not have the supervision that they would if their parents were married.

***Thank you, my dear friend, for taking the time to share your story with us. I know that most people out there are a product of divorce and grow up in a nontraditional way. Seeing Natalie and hearing her story and outlook, is so encouraging to me. Sometimes I do still have guilt for my kids not being raised by both their parents, but Natalie’s story gives me hope and reminds me that everything is going to turn out fine. The kids are going to survive, and God has a plan in it all.

Meet the Criner Family.

Blended Family

1.  How did you two meet and how long have you been married?

We met at our church. He plays the bass on the worship team, and I sing….still do to this day actually.  We’ve been married for five year this last October.

2.  How long did you date before getting married?

We were friends for about a year before we started dating. Then we dated about two years before we got married.

3.  How old are each of your children that you brought into the marriage?

Charlie’s son, Lukas, is 18, and daughter, Ellie, is 15. My daughter, Emily, is 16.

4.  Did you become an instant family?

We are blessed with the fact that our kids have always gotten along really well. It took a little while to find our groove though. Mostly, it was me figuring out how to be a mom alongside a stepmom and how to be a new wife again.

5.  What does discipline look like in your home?

Charlie and I have very different parenting styles, but we both agree that poor behavior starts with bad parenting. Charlie is more passive/easygoing when it comes to chores, follow through, and rules, where I am much more militant with those things. It’s actually good for the kids and us, but it took a long time to find our place.

6.  Biggest blessings in having a blended family?

Definitely the “doing life together” part. I am grateful that Emily now has a sister and a brother to draw on for advice, camaraderie, and support. I think for Lukas and Ellie, having traditions and regular family time with their Dad again, is important.

7.  The biggest challenge in having a blended family?

I think for us, the biggest challenge is having our kids come and go between their parents’ houses. It’s really difficult to maintain consistency when they are only with you half or part of the time, especially if the other household isn’t cooperating or communicating with yours.  The children have to navigate through different sets of rules, expectations, etc. I have also noticed that when my husband’s children are at their mom’s house, his whole demeanor can change. He misses them and even gets slightly depressed. As his wife, this is extremely challenging and can be hard to get used to. We have my daugher more of the time, so I don’t go through these withdrawals as often.

8.  What does co-parenting look like for you?

Co-parenting is an evolving process, as your kids are constantly growing, changing, and maturing. When an issue does arise, I generally bring it to my husband’s attention first, and then we discuss a way to resolve the issue. That doesn’t always work, but that’s where we start.

9.  Any tips you can give other blended families?

The biggest, most important advice I can give other moms/stepmoms is that surrendering your “idea” of what you think a blended family “should” look like is key. For the first three to four years, I was angry and frustrated that my family wasn’t working like I thought it should.  There are so many variables in a family and having expectations that it’s all going to go as planned is setting yourself up for heartache. Second, I would highly recommend linking up with other friends that are doing “blended life” as well.  Drawing on their experiences and just having the support can make a world of difference.  Lastly, don’t lose sight of why you married your spouse. He/or she is your teammate, your ally, your greatest strength. Use each other’s talents and strengths to build your family, and focus less on the areas they lack in or are weaker. Regular/weekly date nights can be a great environment to regroup and get back on the same page. Praying together really unites a couple and helps surrender those things that are out of our control.

 

Criner Fam–Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing your story with us.  

Lots of love you all!

Together Again

After being apart for five days, all the kids are back and up to the same old shenanigans. You never know what you’re going to get after they have been apart so many days. The first day back together can be a little nerve-racking. You don’t know what the past days have been like for the kids when they are with their other parents. You don’t know how much sleep they’ve gotten, how much activity they’ve had. Moods and emotions can be high during the adjustment period. When you get everybody back together, and all are in good spirits, it’s a relief.
Tonight was a good night. This picture is what dinner looks like at our house almost every night with all the kids.

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Lots of talk and craziness, all four kids trying to talk and get our attention all at the same time.

We try our best to eat at home and have dinner together every night. We feel it’s important to share this time each evening that we’re all together. It’s essential for us to take the time to catch up on the day and connect. The kids look forward to it, and so do we.

—>Love this. We need to buy new dining room chairs right now… instead of looking at it as a pain and expense, I need to appreciate the fact that they’ve been well used. I can’t wait to wear out the new chairs we get<—

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Let me make it clear that this house is nowhere near perfect, but when all four kids(two of them being pre-teens) are happy and in a good mood, it feels pretty darn close to perfect 🙂

 

Meet the Burd Family.

 

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How did you two meet and how long have you been married?
We met at church, and got to know each other better through a small group Bible Study that we both attended.

How long did you date before getting married?
We dated for almost three years before we were married.

How old are each of the children that you brought into the marriage?
When we were married, Kylie was 16, Macie was 14 (Tony’s), Jacob was 8, Korinne was 3 (Sarah’s).

Did you become an instant family?
Yes and no. The kids all knew each other pretty well, and it didn’t take us long to learn how to deal with every person’s personality quirks and such. At the same time, it was a big adjustment to pack six people into one house, especially having 4 kids sharing one bathroom!

What does discipline look like in your home?
We have both handled discipline equally, as immediately and informed as possible. We didn’t have any discipline issues with the two older girls, even through their teenage years. They were only with us every other week, and when we had them, they were very mild-mannered and calm.
With the younger two (Sarah’s), we had started dating when they were 5 years old and 9 months old, so they had pretty much accepted Tony as a father already. This made it much easier for both of us to handle the discipline for them.

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Biggest blessing in having a blended family?
The biggest blessing for us is being able to see how God can make something so amazingly beautiful out of a tragedy like divorce. After almost 10 years of marriage, we definitely feel more like a “real” family now than ever.
Also, it’s so neat to see how our kids have grown to truly appreciate each other as siblings, and as people. We live a state away from Kylie and Macie now, and when Jacob and Korinne are down visiting their dad during their vacations, they always try to find some way to see their sisters. Also, they regularly call and text each other, and usually when Jacob or Korinne need advice, they turn to either Kylie or Macie first. We love that.

The biggest challenge in having a blended family?
Dealing with all the other people in the kids’ lives that try to take on a parenting role, primarily grandparents and biological father and his wife. It seems to be a constant power struggle (especially with grandparents) to reiterate that WE are the parents, and they are not.
Also, there will always be an element of “stepparent” in our lives. There are times where we are reminded that we are not the biological parent of our spouse’s kids, and it’s almost always hurtful.

What does Coparenting look like for you?
It’s VERY different between the two of us. Tony’s ex-wife has always been an excellent coparent. She has the same moral values as we do, and she communicates well regarding the girls.
Sarah’s ex-husband is pretty much the opposite. He avoids all possible contact with her, and will not even communicate back about the children when she has initiated contact. His moral compass is nowhere near the same, to the point that he will not allow the kids to even attend church while they are in his house. He bad-mouths her and Tony, and all of her family, to the kids, as he has for years. Thankfully, we are now a state away and the children only see him on their school breaks (which they dread). When they are there for five weeks in the summer (which Jacob now refuses to stay that long), he will not allow the kids to contact anyone from Sarah’s family, even though they live close to him. It’s pretty much a nightmare.

Any tips you can give other blended families?
Rely on God, instead of people. People will always let you down to some extent, but God never will.
Have a thick skin. Don’t get offended easily. Kids are usually well-meaning, but feelings can easily get hurt unintentionally.

Anything else you want us to know about your family?
If it weren’t for God’s guidance, we wouldn’t be where we are today. He is the One who sustains and calms our chaos.

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Burd Fam-Thanks for sharing your amazing story with us!!  Your family gives all us blended families that are starting out HOPE. Very encouraging!
Much Love,
The Blended Tribe

Holiday Blending

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Tis the season to be jolly right?!? Not for all families! The Holiday’s can be extremely tough on blended families.

Here are some tips to get you through the Holidays:

1) Plan ahead. You know when you do and don’t have your kids. Make sure that you plan the month out and be organized and prepared.

2) Be flexible. Although you need to plan out your month according to your parenting agreement, some things just aren’t going to be at your scheduled time with the kids; this goes both ways. Try to be as flexible as possible with the kid’s other parents without messing up your schedule. Everyone has important activities that they want to do during the Holidays so keep an open mind to that.

3) Have a good attitude. Stay positive and don’t let drama get you down or ruin your mood. Focus on your family and the true meaning of Christmas.

4) Make new traditions. It’s fun to make new traditions that your blended family will come to know and appreciate. Get creative and even if some of the kids “act” like they aren’t into it, they will probably be the first ones asking to do it the next year. At least that’s what usually happens around here. Along with making new traditions make sure you respect any existing traditions that are important to the kids or your spouse.

5) Be sensitive. Realize that the kids have a lot of non-stop activity going on during this time of year. Parent’s trying to cram traditions and activities in half the time with their kids. The kids might be a little worn down and overstimulated. Try to have extra patience and understanding during this time.

 

Blended Family

 

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Forgive & Move On

“Forgiveness doesn’t make them right, it makes us free.”

Forgive and move on

The quicker you can let yourself get to the point of letting go, the better off you’ll be.  It took me a bit and my biggest problem was thinking that by forgiving it meant that I was condoning or that I had given in.  Nope, not true!  It’s the most freeing thing in this world.

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