Guest Blogs


Remember life before #hashtags?  Now the invaluable tool of tagging has moved to video and serves to help you find stepmom videos that will speak the words you need to hear right when you need to hear them. I’m excited to share this new project from fellow stepmom Stacey – a Ph.D. student and mom and stepmom whose amazing project is creating a tagging system for videos. Let’s hear from Stacey:

“Tags are words, keywords to be exact, that describe the object being tagged. Video tagging is the process of assigning keywords tovideo tagging videos where you share knowledge, share opinions, describe what you see, describe what you hear, or describe how you feel. Through tagging the videos as you watch them, you are helping to create rich keywords that can be used to index the videos and make them easier for you, your friends and people with similar interests to find.

The more text that exists for a video the easier it is to see at a glance if it fits your search need.  The more people who tag the same video, the more varied those keywords are.  The more people who enter the same keyword, the more we all know the video is relevant.  The descriptions are available on the site so you can interact with the tags you and others enter and maybe find videos of interest you might never ordinarily have watched.

Millions of people play millions of online games every day and invest hours upon hours of time into games that have little or no purpose other than to entertain. What if you could be entertained and participate in a useful task? VideoTag lets you do just that. Play some quick fun games whilst tagging videos. Choose a video that interests you then select which game you want to play, each game has a different challenge.  You score points depending on the type of tags you enter and depending on the game.  All players start out as an intern, as you earn points you’ll get promoted until you eventually reach the role of commissioner.  Once you are a researcher you can upload your own videos to VideoTag.  For those that prefer the idea of watching the whole video and just tagging it, without being entertained by a game we have Simply Tag – simply watch and tag, for as long as you want.

VideoTag is an experiment, we’re hoping to educate people on the potential benefits of tagging whilst analyzing the tags to see just how useful they could be and the vocabulary people use.  Our aim is to provide a useful resource for people who love watching online video and who love creating online video.

It is so fun and easy to use. Create an account for full access or sign on as a guest to have limited access. Either way it’s free, fun and you will learn a lot.”

Click on VideoTag, sign up and start tagging! You’ll not only have fun playing Video Tag, you will feel connected, supported and inspired and by tagging you’ll help a fellow stepmom whose searching for help later. Remember there are many other video categories like Crazy Science Experiments, Tour De France, Stop Motion Animation and The 90’s just to name a few.  I’m honored to have some of my stepmom videos in Video Tag and grateful to spread support, encouragement and inspiration to stepmoms everywhere via video. So what are you waiting for?

Have fun and start tagging!

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A little from Stacey: Until the birth of my daughter in 2003 I was working in the marketing and press department of a broadcasting company in London, U.K.   I relocated shortly before my daughter was born and chose to pursue a different career path that allowed me the flexibility to be an at home more.   I studied part time for an MSc in Computer Science, passing with distinction. I was then lucky enough to be awarded funding to continue my research to PhD level.

During the start of my PhD I got divorced, met a wonderful man also getting divorced and became a step mum to his two children.  At this time I wondered in what aspect of my life I was learning the most, it is lucky I have a passion for learning!  I put my PhD on hold for a while whilst I concentrated on building our family of five, providing emotional support to my daughter, my husband and my step kids during what was a difficult time.  You have to know when you have taken on too much and something has to give.  We are all still learning and growing, there are still challenges to face but the journey has become much more settled and enjoyable.  As a result I have the time and mind space to enjoy my work again and concentrate on my PhD research.   My work explores whether tagging can provide accurate descriptions for online videos and whether effective tagging can provide new methods of organizing, categorizing and finding videos online.  For more information have a look at my website http://www.videotag.co.uk

Tag. Your it. It’s your turn to check out VideoTagging and enjoy and tag some stepmom videos. Would love your feedback and I know Stacey would too. Playing Video Tag will enable you to learn and grow as a stepmom and also support a fellow stepmom on her journey. What do you love about video tagging? Did you enjoy the videos? What are your thoughts? Thanks for sharing.

Christy Campbell’s heart blesses the Gift of Stepmom series. While Mother’s Day is over… the heart and love that stepmoms bring to their families lives and breathes everyday. Her story will touch you as she shares how she became a stepmother and the gifts she gives her family and the gifts they give her. Hope you enjoy her heartfelt words and will visit her blog GoodStepmom.

A Reciprocal Gift by Christy Campbell   

I used to think about what it would be like to have kids and what kind of Mother I would be.  In my twenties, I was busy going to school, working a job or two and paying the bills.  There was plenty of time, besides the fellow I had been with for years at that point wasn’t my future and I knew it.   I then met and eventually married a great guy.  He was one of the most sweet, caring, compassionate, smart and well liked people I have ever known.  We talked many times about starting a family, but he was focused on his career and I had moved on to graduate school.  We thought we still had time to do everything we wanted to do.  There went our thirties. Then he got sick.  Barely into my forties, I found myself the main bread winner and also caregiver of my husband.  Now I began to think oh dear, maybe we don’t have as much time as we thought.  That dear man passed away at the age of 44.  Well then, that was that.  I had missed my opportunity, so at the age of 42 I threw myself into my career and took up a few hobbies.  I filled my schedule.  My life became busy, orderly, predictable…quiet, but I wouldn’t have called it full.

I come from a small family.  My only sibling was killed in an accident many years ago at the age of 32.  He had no children.  As a result I was never able to attain Aunt status and enjoy nieces and nephews, apparently that wasn’t in the cards for me either.  Then, just as I had sort of settled into my reinvented life, some five years into widowhood, guess what…I met a guy. It didn’t take long for him to tell me that he had children. Almost as if testing my threshold, he told me he was not the Father of one, or even two, but three.  To be honest, at the ages we were I was sort of relieved. I had been introduced to some very nice fellows but you know…maybe he still lived with his Mom, was perpetually single, had been married multiple times with no kids, drank too much on our first date, never grew up…My thinking was heck, I would almost expect that a guy had started a family by our stage of life.  I let him know it didn’t scare me any and off we went!  I was introduced to them and to one of his sisters very quickly.  The kids were awesome, so accepting of and curious about this woman their Dad was seeing.  We spent a lot of time together from that point forward, all of us and he proposed 7 months later.  I went from me, a few good friends and my dog to a ready made family.  The oldest boy, was 14 and the twin girls were 10.  So that’s our background.

Reciprocal gifts.  I’ll start by the gift I think I have been to them.  I am their third party.  All of them have come to me at one time or another as a buffer or advice giver, to help them relate to their Mother or their Father.  That alone is pretty cool for them. I’m a built in sounding board.  I’m close enough to them that they value what I think, and they quickly came to sense and rely upon my mediating skills. I set up conversations with their Dad for them, when they would come to me with a plea, so that his ears were at least open.

I frame the situation for him and appeal to his intellect to hear them out before he just says no. It seems to work nicely.  I have listened to their points of view and during tough times with their Mom and their Dad. I have tried to help them with the way they approach their parents to foster productive conversations.  Though I don’t directly impact how my kids relate to their Mother, I do provide enhancement I believe.  I listen to them complain about her at times but I never participate.  I do rather, try to help them understand where she might be coming from and that she does the very best she can.  At times I have helped them come up with ideas to make their Mom feel more included in things, or to make up with her after an argument of some sort. So one gift I have provided is to teach my kids to aim for open yet respectful communication and tolerance in their communications with others, particularly their parents.

I have been the counselor, driver, nurse and mentor for these guys for years. I have tried to teach them the importance of manners, etiquette and the meaning of propriety.  I have hosted sleepovers and parties, have held hands through the angst at becoming more physically mature, through girlfriends and boyfriends, broken hearts, issues with other kids at school and various social mishaps. Lately I have been teaching them and some of their friends how to write (finally homework I can help with!).  And we’ve gotten some A’s yes we have!  In a nutshell, I try to provide sustenance not only physical but emotional.  I’m not their friend and I’m not their Mother, I’m their other Mother!  I would think having an active and involved Step Mother would be a big asset.  Mine wasn’t, I have tried to be.  Three years ago at the age of 49, I gave them a baby brother.  They all love each other very much.  My kid’s Mother I think, knows that their other Mother loves them and helps take care of them.  I think their lives are enhanced by my presence and that I will have some influence over how they turn out.  Now, let’s flip the switch and look at the other side of the story.

Let’s talk about what this man and our children have done for me. I got to love a man again, and all the crazy ups and downs that it entails.  I became an instant Mom.  I got to share my cooking, my interests and my beliefs.  I was finally able to say things like…I need time off to go to my children’s Christmas play.  I got to make cupcakes, cookies and gingerbread houses. I got to introduce them to snow cream and how to cut out snowflakes.  I got  to assemble toys till the wee hours of the morning on Christmas eve.  I got to have the conversation about the fact that I still believe in Santa Clause. I  was able to color Easter eggs, make Easter baskets, go trick or treating again.  I got to teach them what swimming at the lake was like and I got to introduce them to the ocean, riding on a plane and show them the mountains.  I got to hug and sometimes snuggle with them. I was able to cook for my family and actually host holiday dinners at my house.

I found I was relied upon to get them from here to there…even their Mother would call and ask for my help at times.  I got to take care of my kids when they were sick and got to pick them up at school from the nurse’s office and receive medical instructions.  I got to shop for dresses for proms and go through the drama of preparing for dances and dates, I got to teach a guy how to be thoughtful of the women in his life, his Mother, his girlfriend, his Grand Mothers and Aunts.   I got to be a soccer, basketball, volleyball mom. I was able to share my thoughts on their progress in school and get them thinking a little bit about their future.   I get to be aggravated at the attitude of teenaged girls,  I get to enjoy the young man our eldest son is becoming.  I was given the opportunity to have a baby of my own.  Without these lovely people, that would never have happened. That little family I met one day a few years ago has given me so much in return.

I may go on about all I do for all these guys at times, but when I look at what my life was and what it has become, hands down I come out ahead.  I have a husband and dear friend and I have 4 kids.  I never have drawn distinction about who I actually birthed and who I didn’t.  I have a 21 year old son out there in college, an elected Fraternity officer with a job, making me proud.  He’s my baby boy’s hero and that’s so cool.  I have two 17 year old daughters.  They have allowed me to be a Mother.  I’ve lived with them the longest…they test me…I’m sure I test them…but I have 2 beautiful healthy smart incredible daughters.  And my little man.  He’s three now.  He loves his family.  He is my crowning moment.

My Grandmother gave me some advice right after I lost my first husband.  I’m sure she had no idea how profound her words were.  She was awesome, very loving and a strong woman.   As a widow at that time of almost 25 years, she offered me this.  All you can really do is try to make a life for yourself that you know he would have been proud of. At any point that I could have taken a wrong turn, made a bad decision, done something that wasn’t good for me, I thought of what she had said.  I look at what I have now, and I think I’ve done that.  I think he would and perhaps is very pleased at the life I have created. I think she would be too.

So you see, my story is about caring, perseverance, hope, determination, reinvention, love and destiny.  I think life takes you in the direction you are supposed to go.  I think in ways, I rescued this divorced, fractured and scarred family and I know that they saved me.

My statement about the gift of a Stepmom is this:  Give and you shall receive.  I believe that.  I have been through my fair share of loss and disappointment. I have told my husband many times…they are my reward.  Bless them and all the things they have given me.  I have a full life now and a big part of the reason for that is because I became a StepMom.

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You can learn more about our guest contributor, Christy Campbell, at her blog GoodstepMom. You can also connect on Facebook and on Twitter.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced the reciprocal gift of stepfamilies? “Give and you shall” receive is true. Often we may not receive when we want to but our efforts bless regardless. Please share your thoughts.

Kerri Ann wrote to me sharing her journey from successful single girl to stepmom. Her wit, wisdom and honesty will touch you. Her heart for her family and the everyday challenges is refreshing. Enjoy Kerri’s story and check out her blog Simplicity Interrupted.

From Single Girl to Stepmom by Kerri Ann

Three years ago I was a single law school grad.  My cares and concerns revolved around my job search, my social life and caring for myself and my dog.  Are you sensing the theme? It was tough work, obviously.  At the time, my five year plan involved landing a dream job, finding the perfect man, and living happily after.  And three years later, here I am with all of that accomplished – kind of. 

The job is not anything I set my sights on in law school, but it challenges me every day and I am always learning and growing as an attorney.  And the man … well, he is my perfect man.  Except that I never dreamed my perfect man would be older, divorced, or a father of two.

My life has definitely taken on a new focus.  Now, I am grocery shopping for four, baking cookies, and packing lunches.  I’m helping with homework, coloring and crafting at the kitchen table, and folding doll-sized laundry.  I am playing Headbandz, listening to Radio Disney, and having impromptu dance parties.

The amount of four legged friends in my life has doubled.  My beloved Michael Kors purses have turned into carriers of crayons, snacks, band aids, and permission slips.

Any mom will tell you that this is her life too – a life that no longer revolves around just you anymore.  But moms have an advantage of a slow but steady evolution to this point.  It can be jarring to the system to have an insta-family, with no real preparation for what is to come.  And, especially at first, it was difficult for me to determine what my role really was.  I was busy – busier than I had ever been – and I was doing mom-type things.  But I am not the mom.

Their mom is very active in their life, whether they are at our house or hers.  It’s great for the kids – their parents are in constant communication about homework, doctor’s appointments, after school activities.  I would never wish that to change.  But it made it difficult for me to determine what I was bringing to the table, when the phone would ring with instructions on what to pack for lunch, who needed what at school the next day, and whose birthday party Todd and I would be bringing them to that Saturday.  There were (and still are) times I felt like hired help – baby sitter, maid, dog walker, snack preparer.

 

Knowing that I “chose this life” made it difficult to talk it out with friends and family.  This is not a situation that is easily understood from the outside – the relationships and the emotions are complex and confusing.  It was something that Todd and I were going to have to work on for ourselves, and only I could make the decision of whether I was happy in this undefined role.

 

It’s taken a lot of work, but we’ve gotten to a comfortable place.  I am not their mom.  But I am Dad’s partner, and that’s pretty significant.  Todd and I make sure that our relationship takes a front seat – date night is a priority, spending time together each week is a must.  We’ve decided that it is really important for the kids to see a healthy, loving adult relationship, and that they deserve the security of knowing that they cannot pit us against each other.

And as for my happiness in the role – well, it took some soul-searching.  I still feel like hired help at times, but then I remember that I am not doing any of this because Todd or their mom asked me to.  I am doing all of it because it is what I want to do for the kids.  When I get really overwhelmed with the situation, I stop to think – if someone else was caring for my child … if someone else was putting my daughter’s hair in a ponytail, getting my son ready for baseball practice … how would that make me feel?  I don’t have children and this thought causes a wave of uncertainty & regret … so I can only imagine what it feels like when it’s really happening.  This allows me to take a deep breath, and do what needs to be done, knowing that empathy is the only feeling I should ever have towards their mom.

The kids – they are thriving, and they are teaching me and helping me grow more than they could ever understand.  Without them, I’d never have developed this level of patience, never would have really understood what true empathy and compassion means, never would have learned how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Now, as I’m picking up socks, making pancakes, and rushing home from work to read Harry Potter before bed – I smile.  This may not be exactly what I pictured for my life, but it’s beautiful and happy, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Kerri is an attorney in Boston and a lifestyle blogger at Simplicity Interrupted.  She lives just north of the city with her fiancé, Todd, his two children (half the time), and their dogs, Stella & Coco.  She loves joining the #TwitterStepMoms conversation on Twitter, and can also be found on Facebookand Instagram!

The following guest post is from April. She has lived the stepfamily life. Growing up as a stepdaughter and now as a stepmom, April has experience and heart for those of us on the journey. And I have to publicly apologize to April as it has taken longer than it should have to post it. No excuses just a heartfelt “I am sorry.” Her story needs to be shared and her heart will bless you as you read. Her words are going to stick with you and rightfully so. Thank you April.

Do You Need A Hug? One Stepmom’s Story of Love and Acceptance by April M.

“Do you need a hug?”  The man standing in my doorway was familiar to me however I was not yet comfortable at his presence.  I was three and it was the first time my mother had left us alone with her new friend.  My brother, then 8, peeked out from across the hall; he was probably just as nervous in this moment as I was.  I had wanted my Dad and this man was clearly not, but I must have really needed that hug!  All I could do was to stare back bright eyed and motion my head timidly up and down.  This embrace would be the first of many with the man I later chose to call Dad.     

My mother and he (Mike) later married and my blended family began.  Mike also had a daughter from a previous marriage, who is now my best friend and sister.  Soon after, we were blessed with a baby brother who tied us somehow all together.  This union was difficult for me to adapt to during my adolescent years.  I rebelled against change and struggled to deal with the guilt I felt towards this “happy” family and the grief for my biological father.  To this day he has never spoken an ill word concerning my mother but even at a young age I could sense his sadness at the demise of our family after she left.

From the early years I would brag to Mike about how awesome my “real” dad was and all the great things he could do; Mike would thoughtfully help me to recognize additional things I had forgotten to mention.  Into my preteens I would purposely ignore Mike or not include him in our everyday activities; he would come to all my karate tournaments, basketball games and volunteered at my school.  When I lashed out as a teenager I would make sure Mike knew he was not my “real” father and he had no “real” rights; he would discipline me anyway while reminding me how much he loved me.

When I was 18 my mother decided to leave once again and my existence was crushed at the thought of losing the man I had grown to love……my other dad!  I had always believed that I was dismal because my biological parents hadn’t raised me together, but now the thought of losing a parent who actually did and chose to raise me, was devastating.  These fears and empty insecurities were quickly diminished however as Mike and I grew closer.  Through this period and at the blessing of my biological dad, I lived with him in the family home, went to college and took a stronger role in our family business.

It was into my mid-twenties when I started to actualize that my life’s events thus far would set precedence to the full circle I was on route to completing.  During this time I met a man, Ken, who’s wife had left him and was sharing custody of their two boys, (3 & 6).  We started off slow as the boys were still healing and dealing with a step father they didn’t particularly like.  After much time together, Ken and I discussed with them, their feelings on living together.  Both boys were so excited and welcoming.  I was thrilled.  I had high expectations and failed to see some of the frustrations and compromises I would be getting or giving!  At times my relationship with the boys seemed close and warm.

Then at times after visits with their mom, they would return cold and distant.  I was tortured with these over whelming feelings of self-pity and yearned to remember what I myself had felt in similar situations as a child.  I had spent measures on sympathizing with my bio dad and though I love him dearly, lately I had really come to appreciate Mike even more and the role he still plays to this day.  I was beginning to see things from his perception.  And then one evening, I FELT things through that same perception.

I was sitting at the dinner table somewhat wallowing in my own self sorrows due to an earlier issue with Ken’s ex.  The three boys lounged in the next room in front of the television.  Then out of nowhere I could hear my oldest step son ask his father, “Aren’t you glad we’re not sad anymore?”  “What do you mean?” Ken replied quite confused.  “You know, when Mom left we were all sad and cried all the time, but now we have April and we’re a family again.”  My eyes began to swell and my chest collapsed.  Any doubts, not good enoughs or too much’s rapidly escaped my mind.  I didn’t even know how to respond.  All I could do was think back to the last time I had ever felt so complete.  I got up and went and stood in the doorway………”I need a hug!”

Step parenting didn’t suddenly get easier in that moment and I have had some tougher mountains to climb since, but it did remind me that just as they have become a part of me, I have become a part of them.  As a Step Mom, I may not always have the moments I want with the boys, but I will always have the ones I need.  I cannot and will not ever be their mother, but I am and always will be their other!

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April honestly and lovingly shared how she treated her stepfather yet how she truly felt about him. This gives great insight into our relationship with our stepkids. Often they push us away or brag about their mom yet inside they are grateful for our consistency and for being a parent in their life. April has come full circle and her experience, love and insight is a blessing to us all. Your thoughts?

Two weeks ago, I received the following note from a devoted husband whose heart aches for his wife, a stepmom to his children, on Mother’s Day. I asked him if I could share his words and a photo of his family and he graciously agreed. Here is how one husband views Mother’s Day and grieves the day for his wife:

Hi. My wife led me to your post regarding the gift of stepmoms and regarding the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday. So I wanted to share the bittersweet blessing with frustration from dad’s perspective on the matter…  

My wife will not see my kids’ faces on Mother’s Day, and unless the third time is a “charm”, she won’t be able to speak with them on the phone either. All calls over the previous two years on Mother’s Day since she has become a part of my family have gone unanswered and not returned, as they are not yet old and responsible enough to carry their own phones, and gifts made at school are intended for one mom (bio mom)… not two. The schools don’t seem to have caught on yet. So while she won’t admit or describe it this way, at least not out loud, perhaps to shield her precious heart, this is deeply heartbreaking to her. She has chosen to love and adore my kids, and as we have them half of the time; also feeds them, provides for them when they are in need, and she creates a stable, caring, safe, and nurturing environment. Just to name a few of her selfless acts. Yet the investment usually lacks a measurable dividend.

I adore her immensely for this sacrifice, but as much as I try, I simply can’t provide the same kind of adoration and appreciation on their behalf on Mother’s Day as they potentially could, had they not been a little bit discouraged. So the burden falls heavily on me, not even to fill the void, which is as far as I can see, basically impossible, but to close the gap a little. This is an emotionally exhausting role in itself. I usually don’t even know where to begin.

This is a situation that rips away at the fabric of what my family is trying to be, so I simply try to remember to thank God every day that this is at least a problem I could have the unfortunate circumstance to be without. That even to have a fabric of a family with two loving adults in the same home, and having her to love all of us, is a blessing. She loves them, and she grieves their absence on Mother’s Day. I could have a far worse situation for my children. I’m lucky to have such a lovely woman whom I can call my own.

I thank her for everything she does for my kids, which in turn, provides for me more than anything else she could ever actually do for me directly. God Bless her sweet, beautiful soul. The kids and I have never really articulated it this way, particular because dad is a proud achiever, but we would all be lost without her.

 -Jason

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His words bring tears every time I read them. What a blessing he and his wife are to one another and to their family. What does this letter mean to you? Does it speak to your heart?

New stepmom Joelyn (Jody) brings us her story and shares with you her perspective on the gifts of stepmotherhood. Some of us are further along on the journey and some of us are just beginning. Regardless of where you are on the path you will be moved by her words. I think all of us can relate that stepmotherhood brings with it surprises. Joelyn has a beautiful perspective of her life changes.

Surprises For A New Stepmom- Joelyn

Here I am, the month of May, the month of the mother – boy has my life changed recently.  Looking back it isn’t really so recently, June 1st it will be a year that my life began a plethora of change.  Some good, some bad but all a learning experience and although I say I would love for things to have been different, in reality I look back and realize that I appreciate more of what I have right now because of the past experiences.

I am a mom to a fourteen year old girl and anyone who has a teenager knows what a challenge this can be.  On top of that, I am on disability due to a neurological disorder.  In August of 2011 I was able to finally move out on my own and not have to worry about anyone taking care of me and my daughter was able to start living her life to the fullest as a teenager and I was enjoying every moment of it.

Over the course of time a friend I had known since I was 14 years old began communicating with me again.  We shared our troubles, our joys and of course what was going on with our kids and families.  We both were in need of a friend who would listen and not judge and after knowing each other for 20+ years, it seemed to be the right fit.  It also helped we were hours away from each other and just had messaging to communicate.

When reality hit that his life at home was not going so well and there were problems regarding his girls we worked to create a contingency plan should he have to leave.  Needless to say the contingency plan has happened and our lives have changed drastically.

I am learning to co-parent a three and seven year old, who are majorly different than fourteen year olds, I am reverting back to laying out clothes, putting clothes away, making breakfast, packing lunches, doing homework, reading stories, drying tears, giving baths, going on field trips and picking up crayons and Barbie dolls.

This is so challenging for me, especially considering the pain I am in some days, the confusing and frustration of moving to a new city, along with what happens on a day to day basis due to the shared parenting of both his girls and mine.

I have learned to love the hugs of little ones, the ability to teach them new things like cooking and baking, the shouts from parts of the house because something is not right, the running up and down the stairs and of course the little voices when they say thank you or that they love you.

I find it funny when they are learning to read, write and spell – all things I have taken for granted with having a fourteen year old child.  It is so cool seeing them draw and then share with me what it is they drew.  The sound of them asking to help in the kitchen or the yard is like music to my ears and it is great when you see all three of the girls asleep in the back of the car after a fun day as a family and you realize that you are so blessed and grateful for what God has given you, even though sometimes it feels like more than you can handle on a day-to-day basis.

Being a step-parent or co-parent is amazing.  I never imagined my life with little ones in it again.  I am so happy that they are though, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I went from a two bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house, increased from two cats to four, and added a bathroom, bigger kitchen, yard, garage and responsibilities.  It all sounds like a lot, but when I can tuck all three girls in at night and each one has their own special way they like it done and I sit down to do homework, write or work on my business I stop, listen to the silence and smile – the hugs and kisses I received just a little bit ago are all I need to sleep well and make it into the next day.

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Joelyn Morgan is an Independent Chocolatier for Dove Chocolate Discoveries, attending school to be a Certified Health Coach and advocate for those with mental health needs.  She resides in Galloway, OH with Kevin, Sammie, Juliette, Josephine and their cute cats.  Her interests are health, wellness, reading, writing, volunteering, crafts, cooking and baking.
Please visit her blog at http://nowtherearefive.com, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!
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Share how Joelyn’s story touched you. We all learn and grow from the sharing of each other’s hearts.

Lissie shares her story with us today. She had one of those “light bulb moments” that changed her life and her perspective. Her honest outlook will draw you in and her insight and heart will leave you feeling blessed.

A Stepmom’s Heart: Love is What Matters by Lissie

I read somewhere recently that it takes 2 to 4 years for a stepfamily to mesh and feel integrated. Part of me wishes I had read this, say, 2 to 4 years ago, and saved myself a little heartache, but there is a bigger, wiser part of me that understands it was the journey I had to walk.  

I look back on the genesis of our little family and I remember so much pain, so much adjusting. I was so hard on myself then. My stepson would push and push and my stepdaughter was this tiny little enigma and I just kept thinking something had to be wrong with me that I didn’t feel this overwhelming sense of love and that every other weekend wasn’t this picture of domestic bliss, full of arts and crafts and cookies straight from the oven. Becoming a stepmom is hard under any circumstances, but because of my husband and I were rebuilding his relationship with his kids just as much as I was building one from scratch, there was just so much pressure to get everything right and to be perfect.

I honestly don’t know how I survived those first couple years. The kids’ mom was doing everything she could to stop my husband from getting his time with them back and to ruin what time he did get. My in-laws were so resentful of me being in limelight after years of playing parents to the kids while my husband struggled to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. My husband was trying to dance that dance of moving on and moving forward while being pushed down every other weekend and sometimes most of the days in between by the very person he was trying to move on from. The kids were just being kids, confused and scared and wide eyed and wanting so much for someone to just put the pieces together for them. And I was in the middle of all of this, trying to help everyone and feeling like I was failing with every single step. I was hanging on by tattered threads a lot of the time, defeated by the chaos that seemed determined to keep me from making a family out of the mess that was loving this man. I remember thinking over and over again, “this is my life now??”

But one day, something clicked. We were taking our first family vacation and my stepson, fraught with anxiety at being away from his mom and knowing she didn’t like it, had a major meltdown that at the end found him hiding under the bed in shame and me laying on the ground looking at him and crying, giving in and realizing I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t ever be a replacement mom, but we were still a family, for better or worse, even if the parts didn’t look the way I expected them to. I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened that day or what words I said, but I can tell you that from that day forward, the dynamic changed from four people trying to learn to occupy the same space to family of four, who experiences challenges, disappointments, happiness and sadness, but loves each other all the same. We settled into a little routine and I let go of expectations and instead started to learn what were real smiles and what was anxious and forced and what exactly it was I liked about each child and how to love them and what kind of stepmom I wanted to be.

And it’s a good thing, too, because before I knew it, they were ripped away from my husband and I, moved across the country with their mom & military stepdad and suddenly we were all alone again and living every divorced parent’s nightmare, struggling with how to be long distance parents.

There was a lot of grief to work through. We had just watched the closest thing that either of us have had to perfect slip right through our fingers like sand. We had to rebuild our lives all over again. We packed up and moved a few hours closer to family and waited for the kids’ return. I don’t know how many sleepless nights before that first trip back I spent wondering if that short time of happiness was enough, wondering if they would forget that they loved me, wondering if what we had built was lost forever.

For the longest time, I thought that the gift of being a stepmother was all about the gift of learning to love someone else’s children as my own, but that isn’t it at all. From that first trip back and every time after, when they step off an airplane and meet my eyes and love me without having seen me for months on end, I realize the gift all along has been their love. Their love tells me not only I am enough, just as I am, but I am living the life I am meant to live. It’s still hard work and it will never be perfect, but it is our life.

I was lost in my life, before I found them. I thought they would be this thing I would have to overcome or adapt to, something that would bring pain, but came along the side of finding and loving my husband. But it turns out they are my whole reason for living, the destination my life has been walking towards all this time. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be but one smile from my stepdaughter, one laugh from my stepson, and I remember, I want to be their stepmom.

am their stepmom. Through better or worse, they have me, but better yet, I have them

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Lissie has been stepmom to her two wonderful kids, age 9 and 11, for almost 6 years. Her and her husband have been married for 2, but have been a family from the start. No kids together (yet), but incredibly blessed already. They live in a peaceful, rural town on the west coast and look forward to each and every trip the kids make. You can find more of Lissie’s story at http://exceptthat.wordpress.com/ and twitter.com/exceptthat

Share how Lissie’s story touched you? Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that changed your perspective?

Sarah shares her journey into stepmotherhood and lessons learned. Her heart will bless you and her learnings are some that you can identify with. Most of us go into the land of stepmom thinking “I can do this!” only to find out that we had no clue what “this” really is. Here is Sarah’s heart:

Growing Into Stepmom by Sarah Kinbar

I fell in love with Todd before I knew his two daughters, and before he knew my son and daughter. It was (and is) an intense love, like first love. In this blissed-out frame of mind, my perspective was, shall we say, limited. I knew 100% of nothing about blended families, and in my sheer ignorance, I thought that once we were ready to introduce the kids into our relationship, if they clicked, so would everything else. If they didn’t, we’d have to have a serious conversation about whether or not we wanted to move forward with our relationship.

Our children did like each other right away. The companionship was sweet, and our get-togethers were like play dates warmed up with romance. When you love a guy, spending time with him is awesome. When you love a guy and his children, and all three are beloved by your own children, the only place to go is nowhere. You just want to be right where you are, forever.

Now that we’re living together, the friendliness between the six of us has created a fun and engaging atmosphere in our home and helps soften the edges when problems arise. Challenges unique to blended family life can appear at any time, and it was one of these that at once shattered my naivety and reminded me how much I need the loving bonds of our blended family. Giving to our family is always front of mind, but yes, I need our togetherness, our funniness and our tears. All of it.

I was almost done grocery shopping at Target on a Monday with my sleepy toddler when my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was tight, accusatory and stern. At first I wondered if it was a wrong number. Where’s Todd? I haven’t been able to reach him. Do you know why he’s not answering his phone? Did you notice our daughter feeling unwell or having a fever over the weekend? Because she’s burning up! Why didn’t anyone call me or take her to the doctor? I would think that as a mother you would be more alert to things like this.

Well, hello! I was in the line of fire and had no idea why. No one was sick that I was aware of. What fever? Todd was on a long flight, so I couldn’t redirect the call to its proper recipient.

An angry phone call from his ex was in itself a small thing, until it became more calls, and then a sweeping, negative view of my mothering skills.

Looking back, I now think it’s slightly cute that I believed everything would click so long as our children did. Feeling strong and confident as a mother, I didn’t realize that the stepmom role isn’t as straightforward. Developing a relationship with Todd’s children opened me up to criticism I wasn’t familiar with or comfortable with. I’ve had to become much stronger, and much more willing to manage conflict for the sake of love.

Mother’s Day is coming up. On that day, I’ll be working at the flower shop that day, apart from my kids and step kids. As I’m making flower arrangements for moms all around town, I’ll be thinking about the strength and love that a blended family mom must embody, and thinking of ways I can grow more fully into this role.

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Sarah Kinbar and her partner Todd Ristorcelli live in Orlando, Florida, with their four children. They share custody with their exes. Sarah’s son is 10 and her daughter is 4 1/2. Todd’s older daughter is almost 9 and his younger daughter is 5. Keep up with the family at bigblendedfamily.com or on Twitter @bigblendedfam

Today’s post comes from Chrystal. She shares her heart for her blended family and the gifts that she has received from being a stepmother. Her story beautifully conveys the blessing her outlook and devotion brings to her husband and you’ll also read about the healthy relationship she has with the mother of her stepchildren. I love what she refers to as “invisible boundaries” in regards to that relationship…. it is a very insightful description. Your heart will be blessed when you read her story:

 Being A Stepmom……Rising Above A Little Bit More…

In my opinion, being a step-mother is the only role that you can never prepare yourself for, ever.    I have been a step-mom for almost 11 years to a set of boy/girl twins, who are now 15 years old.  From the moment I met my husband, I never blinked at the fact that he had children.  His children were a part of him and I loved him wholly and so that included his children.  He showed me a picture of his kids the very first night we met and I knew then he was a wonderful father.  We lived in two different states when we met and I did not have children.  When it was time for us to be in the same state, I never even considered asking him to move away from his children.  With that being said, I became a resident of Louisiana and no longer a resident of Indiana.  I know moving 12 hours away from my entire family may seem strange to some, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The rest is our history and now we have one daughter together who is 6 years old.  We all love each other as a family, no “step” or “half” needed.  All of our children love each other as just brother and sister, regardless of the fact that my daughter is their “half” sister.  It melts my heart seeing them all together, talking, laughing and playing!

I believe my step-children have definitely been a blessing in my life.  When I first met them, I did not have children of my own and they taught me some very valuable lessons on motherhood that I would have other wised never been able to learn before having my own daughter.  Not everyone gets that kind of hand-on experience before their “first” child.  In almost 11 years I’ve only heard “you’re not my mom” one time, and keep in mind there are two kids, so I think I’m doing pretty good!  I have loved them for the entire 11 years I’ve known them and that will never change.  They have always respected me and welcomed me into their lives and for this I am forever grateful, because they didn’t have to do that!  The fact that they love my daughter unconditionally and don’t treat her different, is also a huge blessing.

I believe I am a blessing to my husband because I was more than willing to accept him and his children and whatever else came along with him, from the very beginning.  We all know that dating after divorce can be difficult, but add two children to that mix and it is extra difficult.  My wonderful husband works out of town a lot in the oilfield industry.  This means that I am usually the person who communicates with his ex-wife.  Hence, the fact that his ex-wife and I get along so well, is a huge blessing to him and the children.  And since my husband has an unpredictable work schedule, the children are free to come and go to either house whenever they want, there has never really been a set “schedule”.  I think this also makes them feel good, because they don’t have a schedule that is rigid or stressful.  My step-children have always been able to come to our house when my husband is off working and that means a lot to everyone.

If you are lucky enough to have a Mom of your step-children who is genuine, honest and open to having a relationship with you, consider yourself very blessed.  I have to give credit to my stepchildren’s Mom because she welcomed me as her children’s step-mom right away.  I also believe that we can get along so well because she is a step-mom herself, we are grown women and I am not the “reason” her marriage ended with my husband.   We are able to work together for the children’s sake and we all make it a point to be civil in front of the children.  She and I have had lunch together, clipped coupons together, attended the same church and my daughter has gone to her house before so that my step-son could babysit for me.  My step-daughter, her mother and I have attended my step-daughter’s cheerleading banquet together, for the second year in a row.  She has always let her children have a relationship with me and that is very important.  Because of this, the children know that it is okay to love me and have a relationship with me.  I believe she and I could be really, great friends, if the circumstances were different and there weren’t invisible boundaries and limits in place.

I’ve always tried to make sure that my step-children didn’t feel unwanted or feel tension between houses and when they see us all do something together for their behalf, it solidifies this fact.  I am not saying it is always easy because it isn’t.  My husband and his ex-wife don’t always agree on everything and sometimes I act as the “buffer” so-to-speak, but we all try to compromise.  Sure, there have been and there will be issues that arise, but that can happen to the everyday married couple with kids, regardless of the fact there are “step” people involved.  We all like having peace in our homes, and we know that doesn’t happen unless we get along!  I know that they will be exceptional adults one day and my heart swells just thinking that I will have helped them become that person!  I believe that they feel loved unconditionally at both houses and that is the ultimate goal!  They will be better people because we all got along and I honestly think our family is in the minority when it comes to this, unfortunately.

To my fellow step-moms, be the bigger person, be nice and love your step-children as your own.  It’s no fun being miserable, so I pray for peace in your home.

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Chrystal Adams is married to her wonderful husband Frank.  They have three children, ages 15, 15 & 6, they reside in Louisiana.  She is 34 years old and has a full-time career as a Registered Investment Advisor and her husband works in the oilfield industry.  Chrystal is passionate about health and fitness, and practices Pilates and Yoga daily.    You may connect with Chrystal at hadleysmama on Twitter.

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Can you relate to the gifts she brings to her family? To the gifts she receives from them (including the mom of her stepkids?) Pls share

Today, I am honored to share the heart of Cheley. She shares an event with one of her stepchildren that changed her life and the choices and decisions she makes as a stepmom. Often we aren’t sure if our stepkids are paying attention but they are – Cheley’s story is a testimony to that. You’ll be inspired by her heart and her hug therapy.

Choices and Decisions by Cheley Frazier

There was never an instruction booklet that came with “single woman falling in love with a man who had just won sole physical custody of his three children”. The first six months proved to be overwhelming but nothing I was not able to handle with three young children ages four, six, and eight that needed so much. I was fairing far better, even to my own surprise with a sickly special needs child, a young boy who did not know how to read and an eager, yet mischievous oldest boy.

With a background in Human Services, I was able to navigate through most situations as we all adjusted to living together and the new setting that had taken place, but nothing in my background could have prepared me for the life-changing meltdown I was about to witness.

To this day, I remember it vividly. It was a Thursday in March 2003, the biological mother was a no call no show again. It was a series of many no call no shows for the newly given visitation schedule that had just broke from supervised visits (in which I was the supervisor). With the history of no call no shows, we were always cautious and careful in letting the kids know mostly Romeo because it was harder on him. 

My husband had gone to work and I was to be there for the pick up. The time came, the time passed. I could see Romeo getting antsy as I was giving an extra half hour for pick up time just in case something happened. The half hour came and left. I had to tell Romeo “I’m sorry bud” in which he replied “its okay”. He appeared to be okay as I peeked out of the kitchen every few moments to watch, to see if he would be okay.  The other two children just went on about their play time, he joined them and then… I hear Romeo yell “its your fault”  and  I quickly peek out to see him standing over and yelling at his brother, ready to pounce on him. I rushed over to the kids, stopped him and let him know we talk about these things in which … he broke, dropped to his knees, and began to sob inconsolably, desperately asking why didn’t she want to see him.

[insert “I don’t know what to do face”]

I instantly dropped to the floor, sat him in my lap and did the only thing I knew to do…. Hug Therapy.  I held and rocked him while he sobbed and sobbed inconsolably for 32 minutes until he fell asleep. Here sat this eight year old boy, lost, confused, heartbroken, and couldn’t understand why things were happening this way.

My heart shattered into pieces.

This very instance changed my life.

That evening, I went through things in my head and made decisions within.

These children, not only having to go through growing pains, had to deal with this reality, not knowing if it would ever change or get better for them. How does a child comprehend this when they are still in the stages of learning skills to navigate in a typical life.

I decided that day that no matter how difficult it may be I would choose the higher road, not allow for them to be used as leverage or methods of getting to be the better parent,  and would be devoted to teaching them things in life in a positive manner, cultivate love, but most importantly sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance by my definition.

[My definition of learning to love someone from a distance.  When faced with a toxic or hurtful relationship whether it be short term or lifelong, its not wrong to love that person but you must put some distance within the relationship by not setting expectations within the relationship. When someone has hurt you so deeply, you need to heal, and sort out things, your own emotions. You cannot change anyone. Also, a practice that takes time to learn. ]

Have there been days when the children tested me beyond the universe, court dates, visitation schedules, “buying” the child, story telling, bad behaviors and frustration got the better of me? Yes, there have been many, many days where I needed to step outside, take deep breaths, take a walk, a hike to remember my goal, my choices I had decided on. When faced with tricky questions like what do you think of …. ?  My answer was simple, we are different people, who handle things differently just like people you meet everyday in school or at the bus stop.

Because for me, showing them anything less than they deserved i.e.; a typical childhood with two parents who loved them very much, worked through things together, and giving up was not the answer. Teaching love and life skills in the most positive manner possible even when faced with the negatives is what we believe in. No matter, what they held onto that we taught them and some days I worried nothing we worked on teaching or showing them would remain with them.

And then about a year and a half ago, Romeo eighteen at the time, was in the kitchen talking with a friend. He was listening close as the friend was discussing the difficulties she was having with a family member and that it had gone on for years. I went in to get a cup of tea quickly, but they remained talking. As I was leaving  the kitchen I heard Romeo say “sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance” as he went on to explain by our family definition of what that means.

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Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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Cheley Frazier is a.k.a. istepmother and you can learn more about her at http://about.me/istepmother

Have you  ever had an event or moment during your stepfamily journey that really defined your approach or had an impact on the choices you made? How did that shape you and your family?

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