Difficulties in the Early Stages – Blended Bliss Take II

Alrighty…  Our second blended webcast.  Not exactly sure what happened with the audio during the first 20 seconds or so, but it was basically just me babbling.  In other words, it doesn’t affect the message, and we couldn’t redo it because Annabelle was finished with her bath. 

 

 

 

Just keep livin!

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!!

Just Keep Bouncing!

I’m convinced that there are two ways I can look at my life. There’s nothing overly profound about this revelation which unraveled one evening while reading a book to my three year olds, a book about two very beloved and dear creatures that many children have grown to cherish, a Winnie the Pooh book but more specifically my thoughts arose through the antics of two of Pooh’s favorite sidekicks, his closest friends, Tigger and Eeyore.

Tiger – full of life, vitality, energy, bounce and spunk. Everyone loves Tigger. Tigger is faced with different predicaments in his life but his voice always shouts back, “That’s ok buddy boy!” and he keeps on bouncing, and not only bouncing, but his bounces get higher and higher – ultimately closer to the Heavens. He acknowledges the negative circumstances that he faces but then moves forward by CHOOSING to focus his attention and energy on the positives.

In comparison to this loveable guy, there’s Eeyore. Eeyore really annoys me, probably because he goes against my entire life philosophy of “Just keep livin!”   Eeyore is king wallower, head hung low, full of a woe is me attitude, always looking for pity from everyone else around him. Eeyore, unlike Tigger, ONLY sees the negative. The negative becomes so large and all – encompassing that it clouds over any positive – to the point where in Eeyore’s mind there is nothing to be thankful for. This becomes his reality – his perception of life is shaped because of the cloud of negativity he has allowed to overtake his existence.

Bad circumstances will occur to every single person who walks upon this earth. There is no getting around it, as humans we are faced with hardships. It becomes our choice as to how we respond to those situations. When we wallow in sorrow and seek out attention for the negativity in our lives, we act like Eeyore. We create a huge cloud of darkness that hangs over every aspect of our lives, not allowing any sunlight to filter through for a glimpse of the blessing that still remains in spite of the difficulty. The act of wallowing according to the dictionary is to “live self -indulgently, revel, to wallow in sentimentality, to flounder about, move along or proceed clumsily or with difficulty.” This is exactly the way Eeyore lives his life, he self – indulgently moves about slowly, muttering woe is me comments, reveling in his own pain.

The concept of remembering, however, is a “recalling to the mind by an act or effort of memory; think of again” a very different trait than wallowing. When we remember something we acknowledge that it occurred, we are able to bring it to our memory and then in moving forward as a Tigger, we choose to find the silver lining, understanding the blessings of our life rather than focusing on the pain. In other words, we begin bouncing.  

Sad generally sells over joy, proof seen in any newspaper, most riddled with sad, tragic stories. It is human nature to fixate upon pain and suffering because it makes our own pain more bearable to know that there are others in the world floundering as much as we are.  There’s a lot of truth behind the saying, “Misery loves company” and it also tends to be in our nature to become envious when we recognize blessing and joys in others lives; especially when we don’t possess the same peace and joy in our own lives.

My son Caleb was recently reflecting on his late father’s death, commenting on a specific aspect of their relationship that he missed. It wasn’t a wallow moment, in fact, it was very much a remembering moment for in the same breath as his recollection he turned to me and said, “But I’m lucky because God gave me two good dads.”

If a ten year old has the ability to bounce after his late father’s death, I have to believe that most of us can as well.

Just keep livin!!

Friedrich Nietzsche and Dancing EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE!

I’m slowly but surely figuring out how to be a writer, a mom, and a wife, (amongst many other ambitions I have) and I’m discovering that it’s a very fine line most days. For those who don’t know, I’ve enjoyed blogging for about six years now, on and off, starting in 2007 with a Carepage that detailed the story of life with my late husband and four children, specifically our life that involved three years of battling brain cancer. Ryan and I then attempted, unsuccessfully, to have a blog after we met called HighwayofGrace. We enjoyed writing together and many wanted to know how our story evolved after a whirlwind romance, a fast engagement, marriage, and adjusting as a family of 9. I say unsuccessful because first – we didn’t have time for a blog, (weird with 7 kids, huh?) and second, we weren’t always completely truthful in what we wrote; in fact, we were quite untruthful that first year, often bending the truth in ways to portray an image of deep grief when in reality we were feeling very blessed and happy. I believe this “faking” was brought on in part by our society which often encourages wallowing in grief – whatever causes that grief: divorce, death, or pain, to name a few, for an unlimited period of time. For what reason? I’m not exactly sure. To honor the dead? That doesn’t make sense to me. It makes more sense to live my life to the fullest if my objective is to honor the dead. To obtain attention? Now I think we’re getting a bit closer to the objective for some people because as long as they remain in a perpetual state of grief people feel sorry for them and that is a part of our human nature, we want to be noticed for something even if it is a negative something – much like my two toddlers…  

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Recently as a believer I’ve come to the realization that there is a time to mourn and then there is a time to set aside our mourning for something better. The Bible specifically says, “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance” Ecclesiastes 3:4. Not only are we admonished to put aside our mourning, but we are told Biblically it is a time to celebrate – to dance. Now think about that word, DANCE. The writer could have used a variety of words as a juxtaposition to mourning such as “there is a time to mourn and a time to eat, “or “there is a time to mourn and a time to clean the house” or “there is a time to mourn and a time to have a chocolate bar” but instead he chose the word DANCE – a strong word signifying life at the rawest levels for humanity. We dance at celebrations, festivals, and weddings because dancing expresses our human joy at the deepest levels imaginable. To dance is to be free of restraints and people’s opinions or thoughts of us. Dancing is letting go completely, freely, with all that we have and basking in the exhilaration of life. Friedrich Nietzsche, German Philosopher and poet says, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” Amen and Amen.

I’ve realized as well, through the encouragement of my husband who actually had this revelation once upon a time, that our job is not to live for the deceased’s honor; it is our job as Christ followers to live for HIS honor.   I began this blog about a year ago and it has been a thrill writing, meeting people in blog world, and enjoying the connections I’ve made. I am extremely thankful for all who read. You bless me incredibly with your kind words and support. I write a blog because I love writing, I love stretching my brain cells to formulate something that borders (loosely) on an intellectual thought that expands beyond that of a ten year old or three year old thought process. I want this blog to give people hope in the midst of life’s storms and an assurance that the storm won’t last forever and often times God’s blessing after the storm far outweighs anything you could ever imagine in the midst of the pain. This blog, I’m hoping, will also assist in my ultimate dream, one of the remaining items on my bucket list and that is to get a manuscript I’ve been working on published. My book begins with journal writings from when I was pregnant with Luke nine years ago and hearing the initial diagnosis that he would not live. For years I thought that was the story and then it progressed into something bigger than I could have ever imagined. It became a story of my late husband’s battle with brain cancer, his death, and then continued with my story of meeting Ryan and three new children. It’s a story of healing, three very different healings: Luke’s healing which was not at all my idea of healing for him, Jason’ s perfect healing which he received in Heaven, and finally, healing for my life, through something bigger and better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. May we all never stop dancing and above all else I encourage you to…

Just keep livin!!