Blended Family Life, Visitation Edition #BFHEO

There is trouble in paradise again. Today’s topic. Summer Visitation. Well, that and visitation in general. Hubs’ kids are teenagers now. One of them has a summer job and is working to save money for a car and is learning how to prepare for adulthood since he will be an adult in only 2 years. Wow. So hard to believe. The younger one has one year left and then he starts high school, summer marching band lessons and traveling to varsity football games every weekend with the band. Their lives are busy. However, the non-custodial parent has said she will NOT agree to take them back and forth to events that occur during her visitation periods because of work. So far, she has also said she will not allow them to stay with their Dad so they can attend their events either. Basically, they are going to be forced to go to her house and stay home alone day in and day out to accommodate the parent rather than assist the child. So, what do you do? Do you take a stand? Or would you just let it go?

An acquaintance of mine recently took her ex husband back to court for a similar issue. Her daughter is involved in select softball and has tournaments several weekends per month and they practice year round or darn near year round. Her ex wasn’t paying full child support, wasn’t paying his part of the kids medical bills, and wasn’t willing to work around her daughter’s schedule. So, they went back to Court. She felt she had no other choice than to let the Judge decide what was best since her ex wouldn’t work with her at all. Guess what happened? She won her hearing on all accounts. Child support was raised. He was ordered to reimburse medical bills. And their new court order now says that Dad can have one weekend per month with the kids that does not interfere with the kids’ activities. This mom was an advocate for her kids, the Judge saw that, and she got every single thing she asked for at her hearing.

I HATE family law drama y’all. Working for attorneys for 20 years and watching people waste time, energy, emotion, and money all for a Judge to make decisions for them that they should have been able to make themselves drove me crazy. In fact, it’s why I made sure to work with my ex to reach an uncontested agreement at the time of our divorce. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Hubs. Poor Hubs. I wish with all of my might that he and his ex could reach agreements without the requirement for lawyers and judges and court hearings but they just can’t. For whatever reason that I do not and will not ever understand, their Mom simply will not budge.

In my devotional today the first question was “how do you respond to worst case scenario conflict? Through fight or flight?” When it comes to your kids, isn’t there a natural “papa bear” tendency to put up a fight even if otherwise that’s not your nature or typical response? If anything in your life is worth fighting for, isn’t it making sure that your kids have an advocate to fight for what’s best for them? Their needs. Their schedule. Their lives. Isn’t it supposed to be about and for the kids?

8 years down. Only 5 to go. We’ve got this!

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#Truth #BFHOE

I saved this a few years ago and it popped up on my memory reminders today. THIS is so applicable to blended families. Ok, in all fairness it works for all families. But the numbers game alone definitely makes it very very descriptive for families like ours.

What’s the numbers game? My friends who have only 2 kids in their traditional marriage feel like they have more than enough on their plate and their hands are full. Now, double that. For us, triple that.

The more people you have in your Blended family with individual needs, issues, drama, etc. the more often you will find yourself right back on the tunnel having been eaten by a snake.

Many people enter their Blended family so full of hope and purpose. Love, excitement of the new beginning, butterflies, hearts and roses. And then BAM, one day they are looking around with a flashlight like a mouse eaten by a reptile wondering “where am I and how the heck did I get here”? That phase often follows with feelings of how you made a big mistake or maybe you should get a divorce. Or you can simply accept the journey and where you are today because I promise it will change. Life always does. It’s dynamic, alive, and always in motion.

If you ever find yourself looking like this photo, just remember that it’s only temporary. What goes in, must come out.

Coffee cheers your way ☕️

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The D Word #BFHOE

About 5 years ago I read The Unglued Woman by Lysa TerKeurst and it was life changing. I’ve always been a bit ADHD, blurt things out I shouldn’t say, interrupt people before I forget my sentence, and on occasion completely lose my cool (especially on PMS day one … like today 🤦🏼‍♀️).

I know in perfect marriage land (that beautiful, magical place where your imagination takes you before reality smacks you in the face), you’re never supposed to use the D word during a disagreement. But …

Guess what I did last night? And again this morning? For the 20th time in the past 8 years, I told my husband that I want a divorce. Why? The ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, always something, ongoing, continual stream of stress brought on by Baby Mama drama. On its best day it’s like a dull toothache that never goes away. On its worst day it’s like giving birth to Shamu the Whale. These past few days have been Shamu swim time baby.

This Weekend the kids’ stepbrother was murdered and since then we’ve found out that Hubs’ kids have allegedly been around gang members at BM’s house along with other dangerous situations and there is all kinds of tension behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing apples to oranges, what the steps’ family has gone through has been unimaginable and my heart truly breaks for the boys mother and brothers and their family. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

However, I’m soooooo exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. The kids are upset that people are talking about retaliating for the death, the stepdaughter is tagging family members and making public comments on social media that could absolutely put her in danger, and it’s clear now that the kids’ stepfather has known about these issues for quite some time but did not warn us or communicate his concerns to us in any way.

I haven’t slept for more than a couple of hours at a time and I’ve been nauseous and unable to eat since Saturday sincerely worried about all of our kids and how absolutely unfortunate and preventable this even was.

Combine that with PMS and BAM. I said it!!! I felt it. I wanted it. Divorce. For about 5 minutes. Then I regretted it. Truth be told I regret many things I’ve said these past couple of days to several people. And so I’ve apologized. Sincerely, humbly and to the kids as well for making them feel insecure about my relationship with their dad.

That’s really all we can do, right? Mess up. Fess up. Apologize. Repent. Get up, dust yourself off and try again.

I’m so sorry Hubster and I love you so much.

P.S. we also read the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and it said that marriage is to make you holy, not happy and that the ongoing struggle between husband and wife represents the ongoing struggle between Christ and the church. If that is true, I think we win a holy award today.

Now let’s try and do this again. With me keeping my dang mouth shut this time 🤐

Social media hugs to all.

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Youth Group Edition #BFHOE

I like to outline basic “day in the life of” scenarios for people considering getting involved in a blended family. With divorces skyrocketing, remarriage with children is very likely for many. Some are fortunate enough to co parent successfully like my ex spouse and I used to be able to do. Others, not so much. On Hubs’ side, he’s definitely in the “not so much” category and sometimes the “not at all” category so they parallel parent.

Today’s blog is the youth group edition.

We’ve always attended churches that have well structured youth programs. The schedule is online and available to all youth and their parents. They send weekly email updates to anyone who is signed up. They have social media pages where things are public to everyone.

Baby Mama has the kids attending a very small Pentecostal (AOG really) type church (more about that later since the kids have said they are tired of being pressured to courtesy fall up front) and there doesn’t seem to be any structure with the youth program outside of them advising Baby Mama of events. Hubs has primary legal custody of both of his son’s and other than holiday breaks, they’re only with their mom 4 nights per month. We have made contact with the youth leader, met her in person at the Easter egg hunt event, and she knows how to reach us. However, she continues to only update the boys’ non custodial parent who is a deacon at the church except for one time when she asked if we were going to let the kids go and pay for the kids to attend youth camp (at least the message sure seemed geared that way. On the financial side, Hubs’ has paid over $1500 for child support, Birthday, graduation and medical bills this month alone and we are tapped out! I had 3 jobs as a single mom to send my kids to camp. Why in the world won’t their mom help them financially? Also a separate blog).

We found out last week that our 15 year old son taught Sunday school class for the youth and the class was recorded and shared on social media with Baby Mama ONLY (and other church friends of course). They did not let us know or send us the video or contact us at all. From the outside looking in, it feels like they are intentionally excluding us from updates about our kids due to their personal friendship and relationship with Baby Mama.

When the 15 year old had some serious issues with Baby Mama, I asked for a meeting at the church with the 15 year old, our family and his moms family. I emailed them. No response. I called them and left a voice mail. No response.

I’ve seen churches engage in this type of behavior before and it’s not right. My husband is these kids’ FATHER and primary managing conservator yet the facility doesn’t work with our family about the kids at all. We don’t even know when their activities are or what they are doing. No email updates. Nothing.

Y’all, be VERY careful when selecting a church home. Any church that only works with 1 parent should be on your radar of concern.

Iced coffee cheers your way ☕️

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Truth Bomb … No Enabling Here

Hubs and I made a list of goals and house rules about 8 years ago. We decided that whether it was 1 of our 6 kids or one of our ex’s that we were going to put it all out there to reach an agreement of how to handle blended family life. No favoritism allowed (even if it involved a favorite) and we outlined consequences. We also outlined rewards. The age or maturity level for social media, cell phones, driving, etc. How we would handle discipline. How we would handle finances.

We have been steadfast in those goals, in our expectations and with the rewards and are finally really starting to see it at work. But it took 8 years to see it y’all.

A few years ago I was certain this blended family life would never work and some days I wanted out. Some days he wanted out. But we stuck to our original plan from the meeting we had 8 years ago. And I’m so glad we did.

You are NOT a bad parent for sticking to your goals, setting boundaries and enforcing consequences.

Stay strong and #slayallday

Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

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Jealousy & Hatred – Blended Family Edition #CreateinMe

I’m in a Stepmom Group on Facebook that has around 15,000 members in it and time and time again the same topic comes up. Bio Mom’s unbelievable jealously and hatred toward the new Stepmom. It can be relentless at times.

Today I was reading a weekly devotional by Amie Dockery of Covenant Church from her new bible study called Create in Me. She went on to tell the story about King Saul, the ruler of Israel, and a young shepherd boy named David who was a man after God’s own heart (despite his personal sin issues and mistakes including adultery and murder… It’s really such a redemptive story that everyone should read y’all. Anyway) She said,

After David slayed Goliath, King Saul became obsessively jealous of David [As Baby Mama did with me after I married her ex]. King Saul lost sight of who he was [the biological parent] and his insecurity [compared to the new wife] drove him mad. He resorted to strange games [lies, false testimony, perjury, theft] and tests of loyalty [head games with the kids like “you need to choose between me – your real Mom – and her”]. He stopped leading and gave into jealousy and comparison and hardened his heart against David. At one point, David snuck into Saul’s tent while he was sleeping and took Saul’s spear and water jug but did not harm Saul. Had David wanted to kill Saul he could have, but he didn’t. [We have had MANY opportunities to wound bio mom if we wanted to. We even have new info now but haven’t done anything with it yet while we pause and process everything].

In the handout homework, the question was: You and I can find ourselves in either role. Which one, David or Saul, do you most relate to in this story and why?

From my Stepmom position, I very strongly relate to David. I honor and respect Baby Mama’s POSITION with the children though I don’t respect her behavior just as David honored Saul. When the kids asked if they could call me Mom, I told them that might hurt their mother’s feelings and they would need to talk to her about that. After Hubster got custody of all of their kids, I felt empathy for her and warmly invited her into my home with all of my family, my children, and her children for Thanksgiving. When she called me crying pleading with me to convince Hubs to let her daughter move back in with her at the age of 12, I felt sorrow for her and worked on her behalf because she was so upset about being “all alone” and promised that although she couldn’t handle all 3 kids she could handle 1 (which was a fiasco but that’s a different blog). And then as soon as the ink dried on the new agreed court order, she turned on me. Hard. And she’s pursued me as Saul pursued David ever since (for about 6-7 years now). The attacks, lies, and division she sowed in our home was unbelievable. The false allegations made against my biological children were unreal. And unfounded. And the Judge did not believe them. One of my bio kids even wanted to pursue slander and perjury charges against her on his own (not only do her kids see her issues, her own stepkids and my bio kids do too).

In the Bible, the enemy is a liar, a deceiver and works to create division, & to kill, steal and destroy. And that is all we have seen in our blended family situation from Baby Mama and now from her new husband as well. (We aren’t alone though. She attacks me, my husband, my biological children, her new husband’s mother, her new husband’s children, her new husband’s ex wife, her own sister, and anyone else that she feels gets in the way of her King Saul position or that she feels threatened by. In fact, she repeatedly says “don’t threaten me” even when no one threatens her because she FEELS threatened – insecure – by others).

One thing I’ve learned about Blended Family Life is WE ARE NOT ALONE. This Saul and David battle often occurs today. Though it can “feel like hell” some days, it’s not. It’s a SEASON.

As for me and my family, we are going to keep pressing on despite the attacks and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

Iced tea cheers your way.

P.S.  I often encourage others in the Blended Family Groups to have all of the parents and stepparents meet together with a counselor or pastor present and I encourage the use of parenting apps such as TalkingParents.com or OurFamilyWizard. We have been asked how that has worked for us, but in truth we still have not done it yet. We have asked Bio Mom and her husband to meet with us with a third party present and we’ve asked her to sign up for the app so that communications can be verified, tracked and used in court but they have refused to do either of those things. For whatever reason, they don’t want accountability. When they are finally ready one day, we are here (accompanied by 6-7 kids and lots of documents).

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Be a Warrior

I firmly believe that it’s an honor to speak up for others who don’t have the strength or courage to speak up for themselves. Especially when they are minor children.

For the past couple of years, one of my stepsons has really struggled with his relationship with his bio mom. He’s asked on many occasions if he can stop going over for visitation. Now the other, younger stepson is asking the same.

They’ve lived with my spouse full time since birth except for a brief 1-2 year period immediately following Hubs’ divorce in 2008 which was really due to Hubs not having the finances to fund a trial. The kids are now 12 and 15.

Y’all. This is such a struggle for me. I firmly believe that kids should not be in control of their visitation schedules and that the adults in their lives should work together to encourage the kids to build strong relationships with both of their parents (and stepparents if applicable). On the flip side, I’ve personally watched these boys have unnecessary emotional meltdowns, stress, anxiety, hurt, anger, and fear over the continuous mind games and guilt their bio mom puts on them when they are with her. Spring Break this year was a doozy for them. Rather than a 48 hour visit, they were there 9 nights in a row. And they returned beyond upset because Bio Mom is now bullying the younger boy and making him feel guilty for not wanting to live with her full time. He says she “whines and cries” to him to make him feel guilty. Then the 15 year old chimes in that she’s done that MANY times but it doesn’t work on him so now she only talks to the younger child alone.

In 2011, Hubs initially had a TRO and bio mom didn’t have them at all. For the next few years she only had 1 weekend per month and no extended visits. For the past 2-3 years she’s had every other weekend and extended holiday visits and the kids are far more stressed out now than ever. They really don’t want to see her at all anymore. At least that’s what they tell us.

Yesterday we attended the Easter event at Bio Moms church because the 15 and 17 year olds really wanted to go. They love the youth leaders and have friends there and, even though it was our time, they asked us to take them. However, as soon as Bio Mom showed up the 15 year old crashed emotionally and firmly said that he wanted to leave immediately.

We have tried with all of our might to help them, encourage them, and support them to “be themselves” regardless of which parent they are with but … it’s just not going to work y’all.

I’m not sure what the next step should be but we MUST stand up for these kids. Maybe they just need a break for a short period. Maybe counseling. Maybe time. But something must change.

I firmly believe there is nothing more difficult than seeing people you love deal with pain. It’s hard to watch things you know you can’t fix. My little sister is going through that herself with her son right now. It can be a difficult journey.

My note to self is this reminder: Stand up for others because it’s the right thing to do. Be an advocate.

Be a warrior.

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