A Male Perspective On Blended Family Life

I recently asked Ryan if he would be willing to be interviewed for a blog post on blended families. I thought it would be interesting and insightful to have a guy’s perspective on a touchy subject. 

He and I have noticed a trend throughout the years.  If I write on being a mom to children who I did not birth, write honestly about the difficulties that I’ve encountered and my feelings towards it all, I often receive backlash with one or two people going so far as to call me an evil step mother.  But – if Ryan, a man, writes almost verbatim what I say, he is heralded as a hero towards four, fatherless children. I’m not sure why there is so much hatred towards mothers – particularly mothers who raise motherless children, but it is the reality of the situation most of the time – men are given far more grace than women are when it comes to blended families. Maybe it goes all the way back to the garden of Eden and Satan’s attack on Eve but that’s a different post.

Our family is currently five years into a blended family dynamic, and we are in no way experts, but we do live this reality day in and day out.  We don’t get breaks when the kids go to the other parent every other week or whatever it may be.  We have all eight kids all the time so perhaps we have an insight or two that might be helpful.

Alrighty… Here goes:

What is the most difficult aspect as a husband being a part of a blended family? 

Initially, making an effort to let you run a household the way you wanted to and not how I was used to having it run.  I had all of these preconceived ideas about how a house should be run without realizing you were a new woman, with her own thoughts and ideas, and I needed to respect that. Today, five years in, we are in a much better space. I let you do your thing.

What have you found to be the best way to handle this difficulty? 

Give you some space and lots of communication

What is the most difficult aspect as a Dad in a blended family?  

Hmmm I think the mom part is way more difficult than the dad part. As a dad, you want to have a connection with the new kids but it’s like when you have a new bio kid, it’s just your new kid. I guess it’s harder to give love to my bio kids the same way they were used to before the blended family because it might come across the wrong way to the new kids and my time is so much more limited with 8 kids.

And positive way of handling this

Do your best to love them all the same – even if the feelings are different. The kids shouldn’t feel the difference if at all possible. 

Are there different feelings towards your adopted children and bio kids? 

Yeah, there has to be. The hardest part is admitting it. Of course I have more of an instinctual connection to blood  children I’ve known since birth. It’s human nature. As time goes on my bonds grow deeper with my adopted children. 

What have you discovered to be an effective discipline method for the kids across the board

Structure. 

How do you prioritize your time among so many kids, obligations? Wife? 

Holy crap. You can quote me on that if you want… I think when I get a chance to have one on one time with any of them I do my best to give them one on one attention- teach them something, make a connection. 

How did having a baby together change the family dynamics? For better or worse? 

It’s hard.  We all love Annabelle. We felt like she would eliminate all divisions but she really didn’t. There’s still a division. Now it seems to be the kids and us with the baby because she gets a lot of our attention being a baby. It definitely created a special bond for us as a couple. 

Why make a difficult situation more difficult by living off the grid so to speak? 

What I see in the world is, if it’s hard – give up. Life if supposed to be a little difficult. You’re going to face adversity. It’s a training tool for us, for the kids. You don’t give up. You move forward. Goodness, Josh thinks I built this house! Our kids are learning sustainability and there’s something to those skills. Not sure they’ll use these skills someday but at least it builds confidence. 

What are the positive aspects to blended families? 

I enjoy learning about new personalities and new relationships and connecting to new people. To provide a father figure to four children who needed a dad. I work harder to be accountable. 

What, if anything, do you want people to see in our family? 

I want our kids to be respectful and to know that we are a team. We will stick up for each other. 

How do you foresee the future with a blended family?

 I see a future of not a blended family. A unified family. A successful blending. 

Word of advice for blended families who are really struggling? 

It’s gonna be hard. Find other blended families and make friends. Focus on your problems and not all of the extended families issues. Stay true to yourselves and tell everyone else to get in line. 

In one word, what makes blended hard? 

Change 

In one word, what makes blended entirely worthwhile? 

There’s not a one word answer for that. It’s not simple – there’s a future in blended, there’s hope in blended – that makes it worthwhile.  

Thanks Honey!

I’d be happy to post on other blended families and what works for them.  Drop me a line at jessplusthemess@gmail.com and we can coordinate and come up with a format.  

Just keep livin!!

Why Women DON’T Hate Flowers

February 15

9:00 am, I quietly roll over, basking in the lushness of the down comforter provided by the Hilton Hotel,  lovingly beholding the man I married three years ago, fondly remembering the day before, February 14, a day of passion, wine, and fine dining.  A day saturated in romance with massages, dark chocolate, and red roses.  A night ending in all night passionate love making and “I Love You’s” whispered late into the evening, a day of pure bliss,  A day of complete imagination and

A TOTAL CROCK. 

Reality Version

Aggggghhhhh……  honey….. “ I roll over, holding my sensitive stomach, and glance at the time which declares the truth that it is indeed 8:00 am and time to get our rear ends out of bed after surviving a long night wrought with darkness and vomit.   The day after Valentine’s Day.  A day in which statistically more people search for a divorce lawyer than any other day of the year.

February 14, 2014

The day before, St. Valentine’s Day, the day in question, began innocently enough.  Ryan and I started in plush accommodations, Hilton accommodations, our last leg of accommodations sought out after an adventurous journey home from what was generally a restful and relaxing vacation for two.  That morning I awoke with the feeling of being punched in the gut, the breath being taken out of me once again, for probably around the 500th time since coming down with an undiagnosed illness in the Dominican Republic, having one of the longest nights of my life in the tropical wonderland after eating something or coming in contact with someone that obviously did not set well with me. “

Uhhhhhhhhhh…. I muttered, glancing at the clock blinking 8:30 am, “Ooooooooooooo……. I murmured from the Netherlands as my stomach retched with pain once again indicating that today, as it was with the previous two days, going to be a day of agony.  Although I had an appetite, I paid for it dearly every time I attempted to put something into my mouth which would in turn then unfortunately travel down to the digestive regions of my body.

My dear, loving husband, eyes closed, muttered, “Stomach still hurting honey?”  As I slowly eased my body to the edge of the mattress, waiting for the pain to pass, contemplating the price I would pay by ingesting a cup of coffee to offset an oncoming headache.  “Um hum” I responded and saw through the corner of my eye that my husband had quickly beat me to making it as the coffee machine began to gurgle with life. 

We managed to make it in time for the complimentary breakfast offered with about 20 minutes to spare.  Looking over the selections of waffles, eggs, hash browns and danishes, I decided on the practical choice of yogurt (to combat the unfortunate side effect of a UTI, caused two days after my unfortunate bout with the complete crashing of my immune system) with an accompaniment of a side of bacon, because heck, it was Valentine’s Day, and I should be allowed to celebrate with something red, or pink, or whatever, right?  

We left for home immediately after breakfast, because one, I still had homework to complete on the two hour drive home and secondly, we had to pick up groceries to replenish what had been used while we were gone.  We found a grocery store, a Publix to be exact, and ventured in, ready to get our fill of produce, milk, bread, and something “special” for dinner that evening for the two of us.  We ventured up and down the aisles, getting a feel for the space, surveying the goodness and the redness and the balloons and the candy and the red roses all around, and then the dear man beside me suddenly turned white, sweating slightly as he began vaguely recalling what day it was, THE DAY, and frantically took it all in, as a deer in headlights, looking to and fro as the tragicness of the situation began to descend upon him.  He did the only thing a man in his position could possibly do and declared very intentionally,  

“Honey, do you want to pick out some flowers for yourself for Valentine’s Day?”  

Me  “Uh….. I’m good, but thanks.”  

And then it went quiet.  Dead quiet as the various loaves of French bread beside the vast array of flowers absolutely became the most interesting thing either one of us had ever seen in our entire lives.  

We finished our shopping, a quiet despondency having fallen upon our conversations, an embarrassed attempt towards an explanation about how we lived out in the middle of nowhere and people don’t want to deliver that far, etc, etc… and we headed home, again, actually stopping at the doctor’s office first where I had to have blood  drawn.  The nurse, the sweetest lady, asked innocently whether or not we had big plans for the BIG DAY to which I sarcastically replied,

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think flowers are involved.”

The room goes quiet…

ha…. ha…. ha….

So funny……

She replies, “Oh I hate flowers, they always just die!”

And as she gradually depleted me of life saving, bright, red blood, I turned, slowly, methodically, towards my beloved who stood very quietly in the corner, avoiding the conversation completely, and I mustered, with every ounce within me, the biggest eye roll possible.  

He gets the point.  

Once in the car, the two of us, well, technically one of us, digresses at length on the philosophical, spiritual, and emotional reasons that any woman would say she hates flowers and how, in fact, it’s a total crock, an avoidance  of sorts for women who have become so disappointed and frustrated throughout the years, women who in fact have just given up, women who have disillusioned themselves into believing that they actually hate flowers when in fact, no woman HATES flowers, and especially HIS woman doesn’t hate flowers, and any woman who says she hates flowers just says this to hide the fact that she does actually want something special,  anything special, to show that she is remembered and treasured on this day, this stupid Hallmark day, which in reality is no more special than any other day but by golly, we do want you to buy into the commercialism of it all if only for our sake. 

We finally arrive home exactly one hour before the kids are set to make their appearance.  The groceries are unloaded, the dishwasher picked apart as Ryan tries to fix it, the dryer looked at (which also broke while we were gone) to no avail.  The appliances are broken, straight up broken.  The investigation around the house continues, most appears to be intact, and the children finally arrive, along with the babysitter who bursts into the door declaring loudly, 

“JOSH IS PROJECTILE VOMITTING!”  

Me, “Where is he? Is it all over the car????”  

Her, “He’s in the car and I think he’s done throwing up.”  

Me, under my breath, or maybe just in my head, “welcome home mama.”  

Five strung out on Valentine’s Day, red dye, spiked sugar levels beings slightly resembling humans come bursting through the door,

“MOM AND DAD, YOU’RE HOME!!!!!!!!!!” 

Immediately we are wrapped in sticky love, numerous candy bags, cards, school work, and gold fish thrust upon us.  

fish

WHAT?!?! 

“WHO GOT A GOLDFISH FOR VALENTINE’S DAY?!?!” WHAT IN THE WORLD???? 

I declare, probably not in the sweetest, I’ve been gone for a week and it’s so good to see my children voice, but I was in utter shock.  Who gives their classmates a goldfish for Valentine’s Day?  Is this one of those Pinterest fads that I missed?  How did I miss this?  But us? The Ronne family?  We can hardly take care of the human beings in our home let alone a goldfish who is sent home without any food,

HE WILL STRAIGHT UP DIE, AND WE SHOULD SAVE HIM THE AGONY BY FLUSHING HIM NOW 

“This can’t be real” I mutter under my breath, and then I do what I do in stressful situations and jokingly yell out,

“HONEY!  Mya brought home some fishing bait for you!”

Ha, ha, ha…..

Tate, the child who 100% gets my humor, cracks up in the corner.  

Ryan, rolls his eyes as he passes from one broken appliance to the other, showing me that although he is head to toe stressed out with having to fix the dishwasher and the dryer, he does stand with me in solidarity in agreeing that this is a really ridiculous idea for us to have a gold fish.  

The kids, Josh excluded who is passed out on the couch, have a delightful Valentine’s Day meal of Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese.  The dinner time conversation revolves around Mya relying, like the good little second mother that she is, the offenses of each and every family member that occurred while we were gone.  Jada is not eating…. Not a good sign which will prove prophetic in nature as the night wears on.  Four of our children are in bed at 7:00, by choice, that’s how exhausted or sick or whatever they are.  Ryan and I start to relax, pouring ourselves a glass of wine, cooking and devouring our romantic meal for two including steaks and asparagus, reading for a bit with the boys, finally allowing our bodies, soul, mind, and spirit to embrace a certain sort of perceived calm and relaxation when BAMMMMMMM –

SPITTER, SPATTER, CRACKLE, AND WHRILLLLL…..

LIGHTS OUT BABY!

Really, seriously, we are going to do this today? On Valentines Day? No dishwasher, no dryer, one child projectile vomiting, four exhausted children, pukey laundry everywhere, dirty vacation laundry still in the luggage, tired, grumpy, painful stomachs, and no flowers day – we are really going to do this today as well?  NO POWER???  
Indeed we were, the 14th of February, was going to be a no power, no rest, no flowers type of day.  

Ryan is a supreme candle lighter in this type of situation and within 5 minutes we had close to 50 candles romantically lit around the house.  The kids were checked on, everyone accounted for and fast asleep, as my dear husband poured two more glasses of extremely rare, extremely treasured Franzia boxed wine on ice, we sat, looking intently at one another, searching for something in each others eyes and finding exactly what we were looking for… love.  It was always there, on this Hallmark created day full of exaggerated expectations and false hopes, flowers or no flowers, it was there in all the crap of the day that made us a family. It was there in the pot of coffee, in the quiet admonishment and agreement of the eye rolls, it was in the steak dinner lovingly prepared amidst the chaos, still there in cleaning up the puke, there in fixing the dishwasher and the dryer despite an incredibly long, stressful day.  It was there, among those 50 beautifully, bright candles, in the laughter of, “SERIOUSLY??” Is this our Valentine’s Day?  It was there in the attempted explanations about the flowers, it was there.  It is there.  It will always be there.  It is our love story.   It was our Valentine’s Day.

I love you honey.

Nasty Pumpkins and Nasty People

We’ve had family in town over the past few days and honestly, my body has not moved from the couch very often as the first trimester icks have kicked in big time.  Ryan wrote this a few weeks ago and has graciously allowed me to use it today. I also love a sneak peek into his brain, I hope you do too. 

 Halloween has come and gone and cavities are being created from all of our children’s hard earned loot. Halloween is often a favorite of most children and candy is the #1 reason. For me, I hated dressing up but was happy to do whatever it took to collect sweets that were rare around my house as a child. The ritual of carving pumpkins was also part of my childhood and though I am not a big fan of it today, it has become a tradition of my children as well. The joy I had creating masterpiece scary faces as a child has been masked in adulthood with the daunting task of digging out ewey, gooey, cold pumpkin flesh so my children can do their best to fashion the same artful creations of their own. I don’t remember the mess that was left behind and the worst part of all as I found out last Halloween is they don’t last long. In Michigan last year, Jess took on the carving of pumpkins just a week or two before the big day. The result of 6 masterfully whittled orange designs quickly became slimy, moldy, stinky piles of mush within days. I as dad and the one unwilling to help with the carving, received the honor of disposing of the heaps. Rather than delicately gathering them into bags and throwing them in the trash, I lazily took a shovel and scraped them off the porch into the mulch slightly hidden by our bushes. As I was sitting in church today, for whatever reason, I remembered that day vividly as our preacher reminded us to reach out to the lost and plant seeds however we can. Jess and I agree that we should meet fellow sinners where they are and both abide by the quote “hate the sin but love the sinner.” I am guilty of avoiding people who don’t smell pleasant or look different or any number of reasons that don’t fit the “norm” in my eyes. They are just like the rotten pumpkins at times and it’s not fair that I think that way but it is human. But is it Christian? It is one thing to be turned off by someone’s presence, location or circumstances, but it is another to avoid that person because of it. Their sin just like mine is that ewey, gooey, cold flesh that our past is made up of. God can make beautiful creations out of our messy centers and nobody is excluded. As we prepared for our move to Tennessee, I was doing some much needed cleanup in our yard when I realized there was what seemed to be the largest weed I had ever seen that started in our bushes and stretched over the sidewalk and into the other side of our front porch. Not exactly what a potential buyer would appreciate in their future home. As I followed the vine from one end to the other, I realized it was a pumpkin vine and had several small green buds about to become next year’s lot of Halloween treats. Now, all I did was scrape it into the mulch and never thought of it again, a stinky heap of moldy mush. That mess produced several new pumpkins with no nurturing or attention but without knowing, I surrounded that pumpkin seed near plants that I did water and nurture. I planted a seed and didn’t even know it and even better, that seed produced several other pumpkins which in turn would produce even more the following year. That’s a long story for such a simple lesson, plant seeds every chance you get and let God do the rest. Who knows, maybe some simple yet kind act could produce a huge crop that you had very little to do with. That’s my 2 cents…

Just keep livin!!

Insensitive Mating Rituals of Beanweevils and Husbands

This is a continuation of the previous post, Birds, Bees and Babies in Mommy’s Tummy…..

 

The next day, the day after we told the kids our exciting news about the pregnancy,  I walked down to the bus stop to retrieve Caleb, a little more tired than usual being newly pregnant and waited for him to bounce off the bus.  He arrived right on time, and we promptly began the return walk home and that’s when he abruptly turned to me and said

“Mom, were you awake or asleep when Dad did that thing to you?”

MY MIND WENT BLANK AND MY MOUTH WENT MUTE AND MY HEART PUMPED OUT MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF BLOOD IN ABOUT 5 MINUTES.   

I had absolutely nothing, not one of those super sharp come backs I’ve so proudly bragged about, NOTHING but bright redness blasting across every cell structure in my face. I muttered and stuttered and JUST ABOUT DIED.  

“Ummmm, what do you mean?”  I asked as innocently as I could muster, pretending like I had no idea that he was comparing our baby making session to some sort of bean weevil mating session he had most likely witnessed on Animal Planet or one of those other stupid shows his father lets him watch involving unique mating rituals of just about every walking creature in the universe including the elusive and odd bug, the bean weevil, who severely damages the female’s reproductive system upon successful insemination, thus coining the term, “traumatic insemination.”

“MOM, awake or asleep?  It’s not a hard question.” He asked again, this time getting annoyed with my obvious avoidance.

My brilliant reply, “What does your book say?”  

Great plan, project blame onto the book, the book should have covered that and if it didn’t, well, that’s not MY fault, that’s the book’s fault.  
The book in question is called It’s NOT The Stork! 

itsnotthestork

a descriptive, informative manual about a boy’s changing body, also loosely covering the birds and the bees.  
We thrust this book at them with the admonishment of “Come talk to us if you have any questions…”  Probably not one of our finest parenting moments.   

“Mom, it doesn’t say. I’m just wondering, were you awake or did Dad sneakily do it?”

OH MY WORD, I DON’T HAVE EVEN A REMOTE CONCEPT OF HOW TO DO THIS WITH MY TEN YEAR OLD SON…..

“Awake” I muttered hoping to slam the door completely shut for any further advancements in the conversation, the most mortifying conversation I’ve ever had in my life.  

This child had absolutely no comprehension of how his mother could be a willing participant in THAT ACT his book talked about.  I suppose he must have a very prudish version of his mother in his mind.
We continued our walk, talking about a plethora of other topics, his question having been answered and as we neared the house, I suddenly had a burst of energy and bounded up the steps, bursting into the office where my husband sat plugging away at numbers for his new project,

“Honey, I gasped, you are not going to believe what Caleb said to me…..”  

I retold the story to Ryan who in turn burst out laughing, an embarrassed type of laugh as he realized that his son viewed him as some sort of primal predator type of human being who totally took advantage of his mate in a weakened state of sleep and impregnated her against her will.  HILARIOUS.

I think that’s all I have to say about that…..

Just keep livin!!