Unglued. The title of this new devotional by Lysa Terkeurst grabbed my attention. I had to read and see what this book was all about. Only one page in and I was hooked. The words and heart in this devotional spoke directly to my heart and continues to do so each day. 

Believe it or not, I’ve come unglued a few times in my life and my most “memorable” moments have been in my role as stepmom/second wife. I know what to do, think and say in most of my challenging stepmom situations but I don’t always take my own advice.  So when I read Lysa’s words in the intro of her devotional, I immediately felt a connection with her heart and the mission of her book:

God has taught me so much about making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions. I’m not as loud when I’m upset, and I’m less prone to stuff down bitterness when I get hurt. Here are the key words in this last sentence: “not as loud” and “less prone.” I’m making progress, but, as you’ll see in these pages, it’s very much “imperfect progress.”

Love it. I am an imperfect work in progress. Aren’t we all? There is no such thing as being perfect yet we can be the hardest on ourselves when we feel we don’t measure up. I know I am grateful for the wisdom, love and mercy God gives us and it’s my prayer that I can be an open vessel for God’s love and truth to flow through me to others.

And the term raw emotions is such an accurate way to describe our emotional state when we feel we’ve been stripped to the core by pain, hurt, and frustration. Love brings vulnerability and it hurts to be hurt. Dealing with stepchildren, your husband’s ex-wife and possibly an ex spouse of your own can bring out lots and lots of raw emotion. Lysa bares her heart and shares “if you relate to my hurt, I pray you will relate to my hope.” Based on what I’ve journeyed through this devotional so far, I believe you will.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly or follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows I’m a huge proponent of starting the day off positive. Lysa shares ”Each morning my mind is like a dry sponge. Whatever I soak up first is what I’ll be most saturated with each day.” So true and soaking in the truth of God’s word in this devotional will set your heart and mind on a positive path. As we all know, it won’t erase our burdens but it gives us the mindset and strength to persevere.

What I love most about this book is that Lysa shares her heart, her hurt, and her hope with all of us. Lysa’s words assure us “you are not trapped by the emotional cycles of your past. Hope for change is rising.”  While we all know that we are not prisoners of our past, having a devotional to inspire and encourage along the way…. brings support, strength and inspiration knowing you are not alone.

This devotional walks you through 60 days of imperfect progress. Each day blesses you with a topic, thought for the day, and ends with a prayer.

Let me give you a little sneak peek into the book. I believe you will love this book as much as I do:

Day 1: Time For A New Script. “While feeling unglued is all I’ve really known, today my life can be different.”

Day 2: Imperfect Progress. “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

Day 15: Is My Pain Talking? “Our Lord doesn’t whisper shameful condemnations.”

Day 46: The Secret to Conflict Resolution. “Don’t let your lips or typing fingers be the first thing that walks into a conflict.”

This devotional is a companion to the book Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst. I have not read the book but it is on my (long) list of must-reads. You do not need to read the book to utilize this devotional. This devotional is designed to help handle emotional struggles. Yeah, this devotional is designed to help everyone.

Personally, it was while I was reading the fourth day of this devotional that I stopped and jumped on Amazon to order four additional copies; three for my friends in my stepfamily prayer group and one to give away on my blog. I bought four more copies because I had to share this book. It is making a difference for me and it is my heart that it may help you.

Enter to win your copy today.

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Disclosure: While I have not been compensated for this review, I did receive one free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Please enter above to win a copy of this book. Giveaway ends Sunday, February  3rd at midnight. As always, feel free to share any comments here.


“I don’t know if I can do this any more,” whispered Julia on the show Parenthood last night when asked if she wants to continue with the adoption of Victor. As a custodial stepmom who has heard the words “you are not my mom,” and countless other gems from a young, hurting heart… I felt Julia. I’ve lived her pain. I’ve walked in that “questioning” field of what am I doing????

Tuesday night is therapy night for my youngest stepdaughter. Anyone who sees a counselor or takes their child to one knows that therapy opens a person up and with that opening can come a flood of feelings. Tuesdays are hard days for her. Tuesdays are hard days for me. My stepdaughter has a tough time and if she’s hurting she typically lands her pain on me – the mom in the house. One thing I look forward to every Tuesday night is getting home, getting her tucked in and settling in to watch Parenthood and tweeting a bit with my stepmom sisters. 

I’m very intrigued with Parenthood and have been watching since it launched in 2009. They do an amazing job of depicting real life situations in a very raw and vulnerable way.

Last night really touched me. If you are familiar with the show, hold on for a few sentences so I can get the non-watchers (those missing out) up to speed. Parenthood is an hour drama on Tuesday nights that focuses on the Braverman family. There are multiple story lines but the one that has me right now is Julia and her husband Joel and their adoption of Victor. Julia and Joel have a daughter (I believe she is six/seven) and Victor appears to be about nine.

In previous episodes, Victor seemed happy to be with his new family (honestly, I’m not sure why he was in foster care) but he has changed his tune about being with his new family and treatment of his new “mom” Julia. Watching this through the eyes of a custodial stepmom who has lived some of this was both hard and easy. Saddened so many families deal with this yet grateful to the show for portraying it with heart and authenticity.

In last night’s episode, Victor’s testing of his soon to be adoptive mom was beyond rude and mean. As a fan of the show, I’m keenly aware that Victor  is a sweet and loving boy but his pain is to much for him to contain inside and so it is spilling out all over and taking aim mostly at Julia.

Victor kept telling her she wasn’t his “real” mom. He asked for chocolate chip pancakes but when she made them he refused to eat saying “my real mom got me pancakes from Burger King. I want Burger King pancakes.” She was reserved and put up a boundary telling him he could eat the pancakes or eat nothing at all. He chose nothing. It was his pain making the choice.

Victor used words he knew were not allowed in their home and he used them in front of Julia’s daughter. This prompted the sister to highlight this behavior to their mom and see what she would do. How often as a stepmom and mom do we have to balance what we allow/tolerate with our biological children with what our stepchildren do and say? This is hard. Julia’s facial expressions and sighs said it all.

Victor was rude to Julia. You could watch her be patient while his words were stabbing her heart. She was at her breaking point and wanted to give in because she wanted him to eat. Her husband offered support and lovingly told her not to give in. When they walked into Victor’s room to talk with him, they found him eating candy from a box he took from Julia’s closet without permssion. She asked him to hand it over. He refused. She took the box from him and because he chose not to let go he went with the box and fell to the floor.

Next we see two police officers arrive at their home to investigate a call regarding child abuse. A call Victor placed. The officers had to follow protocol. They had to talk to Julia and Joel’s daughter. The officers clearly saw there was no sign of abuse and left. At that point Joel asks Julia if she wants to go talk with Victor. “No,” she responds and adds that she wants to deal with their traumatized daughter and adds that she doesn’t know if she can even look at Victor at that moment. Honest words flowing from this character.

The next day, the social worker pays a visit to the home of Julia and Joel explaining that it is protocal that she visit any time there is a claim of child abuse. The social worker asks the couple “do you want to proceed with the adoption?” Joel answers right away…. “of course!” while Julia is silent. Then she speaks with a pain and fear that resonates with so many who are trying to love a child who is not their’s and who resists being loved “I don’t know if I can do this any more.” She voices her uncertainty of whether she thinks she can go through with the adoption. She voices a fear so many have in this situation.

The last scene shows Julia and Joel trying to talk with Victor. They ask repeatedly for him to stop throwing the basketball but he ignores the request. I believe it was Joel who told Victor to stop, explaining that he and his mom wanted to talk with him. Victor replies again with an anger and hurt “she is not my real mom.” Julia says nothing and turns to go inside. She may have been speechless but her face and actions speak volumes of the pain in her heart. And what happens next is something that I applaud… Joel looked Victor right in the eyes and said “She may not be your mom but she is MY wife!” He stood up for his wife. He backed her. He let Victor know he would not be disrespecting her.

Being a stepmom has it’s challenges and the support and love from your husband helps to smooth out the bumps and lets you know you have a partner on the journey.

While this is a story about adoptive parents on a fictional show, this story line touches the hearts and homes of so many blended famlies especially those of us who are custodial stepparents. As stepmoms, we do not want to replace mom – that is impossible and not respectful. As stepmoms, we seek to partner with our husband to care for and nurture his children and work towards helping them feel love, safety and peace in their heart and home.

What I love most about this story line is that it shows the pain and behavior of a child who wants desperately to have their parent back. To have their parent love and take care of them like this “stranger” wants to. It also shows the pain and struggle of a mother who has so much love to give and is crushed under the rejection of a heart that is hardened to it. Reality says too that moms are more prone to the emotional backlash than dads and this show is depicting that. And I will say again, I love that Joel is not giving up on Victor, wants to go through with the adoption but is SUPPORTING his wife and his marriage above it all.

I look foward to how this story line unfolds (only two episodes left) and most importantly, I hope that any moms struggling like Julia find hope in knowing they are not alone and I pray that Victor’s character sheds light on the pain a child feels when he is no longer “home.”

Thank you ParentHood for writing real life into a really remarkable drama! Bravo to the Bravermans!

I remember making a list of all the things I wanted to do before I died when I was twelve years old. For the longest time, I carried that folded up list in my purse but now it is no where to be found. I wish I could find that list. I’m sure I had things on there like meet Matt Dillon, swim with Christopher Atkins and ride with Jon Schneider in the Dukes of Hazzard Car but I honestly don’t remember all the “fantasy” type wishes. I do remember a few of the more tangible list items because they have come true; go to college, get married, be a mom (although I wanted eight kids), and write a book (did get an ebook published).  

I’m much older now. Forty-three to be exact and my goals and life list have changed. Today, I am taking part in Alissa’s from Clever Compass Life List Project. Committing to the project forced me to sit down and make a list and share it. When I share I am more accountable. It was also fun to make a list that wasn’t all focused on stepfamily life. I am a stepmom but that is not all that I am.

So here are the things I would like to accomplish. Some are big. Some are small. Many I know I will probably never check off but a girl can dare to dream….. Here is my life list (aka heart wishes):

Grow old with my husband

Hug all my grandbabies

Read the entire Bible

Love my body

Get a couples massage with Andy

Feed a giraffe

Go to Alaska with Andy

Go on a short term missions trip with my family

Retire with Andy to a log cabin and motorhome

Visit all 50 states with Andy

Take the family to the Grand Canyon

Write and send a thank you letter to every person who has inspired me

White Water Rafting on the Rio Grande

Get back to a size 8 and stay there

Hug my stepdaughter’s mother

Organize my house

Be bolder in my faith

Finish my kids’ scrapbooks

Find a book agent/get book published

Host a stepmom getaway where I could meet all the amazing stepmothers I’ve connected with in person

Operate a Bed and Breakfast in Vermont with Andy

Go to Hungary

Hold my oldest daughter’s book in my hands (She is an amazing writer)

Help all my kids find and pursue their passions

Be there when my kids fail

Read more fiction books

Learn to accept rejection

Skinny dip in a lake with Andy

Find the woman who cleaned the office at my first job, hug her, thank her for being a ray of sunshine in my life

Speak at Weekend to Remember conferences with Andy

Have coffee with Julie Andrews

Have coffee with Judy Blume

Run a Christmas Tree Farm for one season

Find the right therapist for my youngest stepdaughter

Take a Hot Air Ballon Ride

Go back to Switzerland with Andy

Hear Tony Evans preach in person

Take the family to San Diego to visit my brother and his family

Unpack all the boxes in my basement

Squeeze the pain of rejection out of my stepdaughters

Open a coffee shop/book store

Ice skate around the rink without holding on or falling

Volunteer at local pet shelter and foster dogs

Run a 5K

That any pain I live through can be used for good

Start a non-profit that helps parents effectively co-parent

Host a show on the Food Network

For all my kids to know at the core of their soul I will always love them no matter what. I want them to live and breathe unconditional love

Have dinner with my husband and fellow stepmoms and their husbands

To get a stepmom ministry in Churches

To speak at Churches across the country with Andy regarding stepfamily living

Sew like my grandmother

Finish all the sewing projects I’ve started

Put together a recipe book of all my family recipes

I know some of these will never come true. The chance that I’ll enjoy a cup of java with Julie Andrews is a dream but one that I have. Her professional work and her personal life are an inspiration to me and my daughters.

I enjoyed just sitting down and writing from my heart. The list above is top of mind. Not milled over for hours. If you can help me accomplish any on my list, please let me know. And if I can help you accomplish any of yours, please let me know.

What’s on your Life List? Consider doing one and sharing here.

Now to go work on that list…….

It’s a new year! A time when we think about new beginnings. The reality is that every day is a new beginning. A time to start afresh. We all make mistakes and we need to give ourselves grace and move on. Yet many of us often find ourselves dealing with some pretty heavy stuff and we need daily inspiration and encouragement to help lift us up. Dusting ourselves off each morning just isn’t enough.

We all need inspiration to get through our days and just like we are all different so are the things that inspire us.

Some of us are inspired by uplifting quotes, listening to music, reading books, praying, connecting with others. writing, attending seminars, etc…. Some women like to be around others when they are down while other women prefer solitude to reflect and become refreshed.

Regardless of what inspires you it’s important to ensure you are feeding your need to be inspired.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be focusing on different ways to get inspired and connected and offer practical tips and tools for everyone for every type of inspiration. In addition, I’ll be getting more personal and sharing some of my own personal struggles and the different things that help inspire me along the way. Personally, I’ve found that different challenges in my life require different types of inspiration and support.

Whether you are looking to loose something like weight or negative feelings or looking to gain something like a support network or positive attitude…. you need to be inspired, encouraged and supported on your journey.

Life is a journey and one that regardless of what inspires you is best traveled with those who are on the same path. Together we learn and grow and support.

Hope you’ll join me and be inspired!


Would love for you to share what types of things inspire you? Share what type of support are you looking for.

Attitude. It’s a powerful force in my life and in your life. If left to my own mindless thoughts, I could spend my time complaining about all the things “I have to deal with.” This type of thinking would only leave me feeling powerless, hopeless and without any choices. That is truly false thinking. I know it’s a fact that I can’t control the people and situations in my life but I CAN control my attitude towards it all.  

Controlling my attitude doesn’t make my problems go away but having a positive attitude leaves me feeling powerful, hopeful and with choices on how to respond.  Let me think, if I have to choose between;

powerless or powerful

hopeless or hopeful

without choices or full of choices

I have to go with the latter in each set and the only way I can get there is by controlling my attitude.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life in my role as stepmom and one big truth I’ve learned is this; the more I try and control someone or something the more control it has over me!

I don’t want to give anyone or any situation power over me and my emotions.

New Year’s Resolutions are great but the most important thing to remember is the fact that we all have the resolve to accomplish whatever we put our mind to. If we choose to have a positive attitude, we can have one.

On New Year’s Eve, I’d like to share this powerful message from Charles Swindoll with you. My husband re-shared it with me today. May we all have a positively focused attitude in 2013!



Charles Swindoll

 ”The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”


I know that 2013 is going to have challenges for me. Lord knows 2012 brought a hefty share but my resolve is that I will work to have a positive attitude through it and forgive myself when I don’t and start over the next day.

Are you with me?

Tuesday night I could have felt really sorry for myself. OK, correction; I did feel sorry for myself but I chose not to act on it.

I was a little blue but I knew I had a choice. And making the right choice while not always easy always brings a sense of peace and joy. You see Wednesday my son was having his tonsils removed and I wanted him to stay with me Tuesday night so I could keep an eye on him, make sure he didn’t eat or drink after midnight….. basically mother him to the ninths. But Tuesday is his dad’s night to have him and his siblings so I did the right thing….. didn’t fight it and sent him to dad’s house.

Earlier in the week, I had emailed my ex asking if our son could stay with me the night before surgery. At the time of the email, he was okay with it and said he’d like to bring him back to my house at bed time but he changed his mind and told me when he came to pick up the kids “I’ll just hang on to him tonight. I’ll meet you at the surgery center tomorrow.”While my heart did an ouchie, my head knew that the right thing to do was let the schedule be. And so I did.

Moms, Dad, Stepparents Give Good Care

I could have gone though that whole “but” thought process of “but I took him to the doctor for the consult. But I made all the arrangements for surgery. But I know what he has to do with pre-opp activity…” yet the common theme in all those thoughts always stops me: the word “I”.

Anytime, my discomfort is due to what I want and not what is best for the kids, I stop myself. Surely, my ex-husband is capable of caring for our son and going by the doctor’s guidelines. It would be selfish of me to operate on a different notion.

And those things I did for my son in preparation for the surgery, I did out of love not for a return on investment. I needed to respect the schedule and deal with my mom heart not having him Tuesday night. It was my issue not my ex-husband’s nor my son’s.

I was tweeting Tuesday night about it and was touched by how many wonderful women joined in on the conversation. I tweeted this: ….My check is to ask myself “why do I want to do this?” If it’s for me then I stop. Kids come first in co-parenting.

I’m often asked the key to working well with my ex. The answer is simple, I put the needs of my kids first.

Sadly, I think our society loves villianizing ex spouses and stepparents and they really love pitting them against one another. If all ex-spouses and stepparents were villians there wouldn’t be very many nice people walking this earth. Sure it’s true that my ex and I look at life somewhat differently and there are things he does I don’t understand and I’m sure he feels the same about me. However, I know kids need both of us. When I feel an instant tug of not liking something or wanting something different when it comes to co-parenting, I do the self-check and ask myself “why am I feeling this? Is it because I don’t like it or because it is truly not good for the kids?” I don’t quantify how often I have these feelings but I’m pretty sure when I have those heart tug mommy moments, it’s because of me and potential selfishness and not due to what is happening in the other home. Once I recongize it’s me… I know I have to do what’s right for the kids and let it go.

I challenge all co-parents to do the self-check whenever they start to feel a parenting tug that would pull the kids from the other parent or cause needless drama.

 Will you take the challenge? Will you share with others?


Check out my book with Gayla Grace entitled Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace (available at all major ebook retailers). The book gives solid advice you can use at the holidays and everyday of the year.


On December 14, 2012 the unspeakable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school. My heart is heavy for the families impacted. The ripple effect of pain cannot even be measured or described.

I had planned that day to write and share a post on gifts to give your stepkids. When I heard the news (actually read on twitter Friday), I wept openly at the grocery store for all the parents impacted (parents, stepparents, grandparents, all those who love the victims). My heavy heart was also weighed down with worry for ALL SIX of my kids (my four biological kids and my two stepdaughters).

When the kids came home that day, I hugged them all a little tighter and loved on all of them. Love… it’s what we want all kids to feel. I unplugged all weekend to really plug into my family. Time well spent. But today rolled around and I felt prompted to sit down and share some gifts that we can give our kids (our stepkids and our biological kids).

At Christmas, we are reminded of the love God bestowed upon us when He gave us the gift of His son. We love (or want to love) this time of the year and we want our children to feel loved. We want love for all kids regardless of the blood that runs through their veins. My stepdaugthers may not have my DNA but they do have my heart.

I am saddended when I read of the struggles that many co-parents and stepparents face and how those challenges seem to get ramped up over the holidays. I recently read a tweet from a stepmom sharing how the mom of her stepdaughter ripped the shoes off of her feet because they were purchased by the dad and stepmom. I’ve received emails from stepmoms who say that gifts that are purchased are either not allowed to be brought to their mom’s house or are even taken from them when they are. I’ll never understand how any parent puts their hurt onto their child. (Please note, I’m not saying moms do this only. Parents who are hurting transfer their pain to their kids and that is not confined to moms.)

Maybe, just maybe the horror that occurred Friday will soften the hearts of all parents and not pit children between two homes when co-parenting is present.

Having said that I wanted to share some ideas for gift giving to your stepkids this season. Gifts that can grow the bond between you and your kids and that can’t be taken away…..

Give the gift of experience – a memory cannot be taken away. Unlike a toy that will eventually end up in the landfill or clothing that they will likely out grow or like, an experience will last a lifetime.

Consider planning a fun trip; a day out, or a simple activity like a cooking class, ski lesson, ice skating, etc…..

If you or your husband have frequent flyer miles, consider using them for a day trip. Find free things to do in your city or a big city you can fly or drive to. Use groupon or living social to find experiences you can give your kids.

With an experience, you are giving your kids the gift of time and of memories. That can never be taken away.

Give a Hallmark Recordable book- I love these books! Record your voice and/or your husband’s voice reading a story. Your child can have it with them and listen to you read them to sleep at night even when they aren’t with you. The only caveat I would caution is to know whether this book would be welcomed in mom’s home. Even though we don’t have control over what mom does, we don’t want to give our kids a gift that could cause an issue for them. Perhaps they could keep it at your home if you don’t believe mom will like it. Actually, you could consider purchasing two different recordable books; one that you record and one for them to give to mom and have her record herself reading. This would be a great way of “telling” your kids how much you love and support their relationship with their mom – that there are no loyalty “wars” in your mind.

Purchase Cooking Supplies/Cookbook - put together a gift basket of fun kitchen gadgets and cookbooks that your stepchild can use when they are with you. Help them plan special menus and items to make together.

Give the Gift of Family Time – give your kids a new game or purchase a family membership somewhere. Whether it be an interactive video game or a board game… playing games together builds family memories. Our family loves Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Wii Sports and Wii Just Dance games. This year, we bought the kids Ticket to Ride! We are looking forwward to playing it with everyone.

Consider purchasing a membership to the Zoo, Science Center, Children’s Museum, etc….. and then make it a point to go when you are all together.

Sponsor a Child in their nameWorld Vision provides an amazing way to truly teach your child to give back while at the same time gaining a perspective on giving and how children in other parts of the country live. I started sponsoring a young girl from Albania when I was a single mom. I wanted my kids to give to other kids and connect with another child. Through the seven years of sponsorship, we have developed a close relationship. We love to write to her and send her small gifts and we love hearing from her. Sponsoring a child is $35.00 a month and when we think of how we can spend that friviously, it makes the amount that much more impactful.

Make a “Love You” jar or “Things To Do” jar – write out things you/your husband love about your child. Also, write down things you can do with each other; bake a cake, plan a movie night in, paint pottery, go to a local sports event, have a spa night at home…. Get creative. The child can pick something out of it and you can plan to do the item. If it’s a love jar, they can feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing they are loved and cared for.

The Gift of Positive Messages - gift a chalkboard to your stepchild that they can hang in their room. Write positive messages on it. Let them get creative. If a chalkboard isn’t big enough, consider painting a wall with chalkboard paint or painting a dresser with iet. Get creative.

I also love Wallhogs. Last year I purchased Wallhogs of my two boys. They think it is really cool to have this larger than life cut out of themselves on their walls.

Give the Gift of You and Your Story - consider purchasing books, movies, toys, etc… that you loved when you were the age of your stepchildren. It’s a great way to connect and share an item and an experience.

Regardless of what you leave under the tree or send to them, I humbly caution you about giving a gift with expectations attached. When we have expectations and they aren’t met, we are often left feeling so disappointed. Even when we don’t make our kids “choose” between homes, they can feel such loyalty – “if I like this gift, will it hurt mom’s feelings?” And many stepmoms struggle with doing so much for their stepkids and feeling like their efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated.

In our book Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, Gayla Grace and I speak candidly and with wisdom regarding the joys and heartaches of stepfamily life during the holidays. As a bonus feature we share family traditions that you can start with your blended family. Traditions make memories and memories live on in the hearts of those you love.

Would love to hear what type of gifts you give your stepkids? What are your thoughts on the above listed ideas?


Today is 12-12-12 and I’m here to share with you the top 12 gifts you can give your stepkids. They may not be what you are expecting.

While Christmas is a time of joy, children who live between two homes can find celebrating the holidays stressful. Where will I wake up Christmas morning? Will mom or dad be mad if I’m not with them? Why can’t we celebrate our traditions as a family like we used to? are just some of the questions that run through the hearts and minds of children whose parents are no longer together.  

This year, keep in mind the pain and frustration that Christmas can trigger for your stepchild. Holidays can be even tougher if their other home isn’t cooperating with you and your spouse in sharing time and celebrations. You can’t control what your husband’s ex does but you can control how you allow it to impact you and your home. Give your stepkids the priceless gift of making their holiday as stress free as possible.

Consider these top twelve gifts for your stepchildren:

  1. The gift of positive co-parenting and a peaceful holiday schedule. Work out a schedule between the two homes in a peaceful and positive manner without the involvement of the kids. If you have to acquiesce on having the kids Christmas morning so they don’t have to choose or be shuffled between two homes, do so gracefully. While it will be a painful decision, your children will appreciate and benefit from it. Remember, the holidays are when you are all together. We may have to celebrate on a different date but we can still celebrate and make memories.
  2. The gift of patience, grace and mercy. Hurting people hurt others and often the holidays can trigger the worst in a child who is still dealing with the pain of their parents’ divorce or the death of a parent. In addition, if the mom of your stepchild is causing issues for you and your husband… your stepchild feels it and can turn and take it out on you and dad. Extend patience, grace and mercy to your stepchild and extend it to your spouse and yourself as well. Holiday time can be stressful.
  3. The gift of humor. Have a sense of humor. If schedules change or things don’t go as planned, try your best to look at the bright side and find humor. Watch funny movies as a family and watch some with just your sweetheart. Make time to laugh.
  4. The gift of self-care. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s survival. You can’t take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. Take a few minutes every day to do something that refreshes you. Devotions, reading a book, going for a walk, having a cup of coffee in peace are all ways to re-energize your body and soul. When you take care of yourself, you are better equiped to take care of others.
  5. The gift of respecting their traditions. When two families come together they bring two sets of family cultures and traditions to the marriage. Communicate with your spouse how you celebrate Christmas and understand how they and their kids have celebrated. Work to respect everyone’s traditions. Children don’t have to participate in the “other” family’s traditions but they need to respect them.
  6. The gift of creating new family traditions. Traditions create memories and can serve to bond a family together and create your own unique identity. Think of some new traditions that you can do as a stepfamily.
  7. The gift of respecting the role of their parents. Yes! Obviously, you love your spouse and it’s important for the security of the marriage that you continue to nurture your spouse and your relationship. You also love and adore your stepkids and as hard as it may be to do, you also need to respect the role of their other parent. You may not like this person. They may say toxic things about you that come from a place of pain and bitterness inside of them but you need to respect their position in your stepchild’s life and not ever bad mouth them to the child. God commands us to “love thy mother and father.” He does not say love your honorable mother and honorable father. Children are wired to love their parents regardless of who they are. You will be seen in a positive light by your stepchildren if you accept and respect their role. (Note, you don’t need to respect them as a person but you do need to respect that they are your stepchild’s parent and not talk harshly about them to the kids.)
  8. The gift of no expectations. This is a gift you give both your stepchild and yourself. Don’t create unrealistic expectations for the holidays that stepfamily life simply can’t live up to. And don’t do things for your stepkids with an expectation in mind. If you buy all their gifts expecting a thank you and you don’t get one, you will be devastated. Buy them gifts because YOU WANT TO not because you want to get thanked or hope it will bring you closer.
  9. The gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Love and accept your stepchildren as is. You didn’t raise them from birth, you can’t control who they are or what they become. Love them for being your spouse’s child and accept them without condition.
  10. The gift of faith. The greatest gift you can give them is the gift of faith. Teach them that their self-worth is not of our culture but in God’s love for us. Children are more likely to follow what we do than what we say. Live your life the way you want your children and stepchildren to live. When a problem arises, take time to pray about it. Practice family devotions at the dinner table. And teach them God’s rules for living. That way no matter whose home they are in this holiday season, they can live and behave according to God’s commandments.
  11. The gift of time. Give your stepkids your time and attention. Give them time with dad. Give them time to adjust. We call the day that my kids come back from dad’s “detox day” where the kids have to acclimate to our rules and way of doing things. Their dad and I do things somewhat differently (neither right nor wrong – just different) and it can be hard for the kids to go between the two sets of rules. We give them time to settle back in and we give ourselves that same gift of time and grace.
  12. The gift of a strong marriage.  A strong, connected marriage blesses the children. While kids may try and push you apart…. they are seeking stability and they find that in a positive and solid marriage.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas. Know and accept the fact that the holidays can be a time of joy and a time of stress for stepfamilies. The reality is that life is hard and sometimes the holidays can accentuate it. Hold on to hope and press on without letting any potential toxic situations define you or your mood. You can do it and your stepchildren will be thankful for it.

What are your thoughts on this gift list? Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share actual gift ideas that you can physically give your stepkids.


If you are looking for more practical tools and tips on thriving at the holidays, check out my book with Gayla Grace: Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace. Available at amazon, itunes, kobo and all major e-retailers.


Growing up, I remember  each year asking my mother what she wanted for Christmas and always getting the same response:

“All I want is for you and your brothers to get along. No fighting on Christmas.”

“Please,” I’d think as I’d push her for an easy gift. Still she would stand strong on her “simple” request.

I now understand my mom’s wish list. Yet, I am blessed to know something I’m not sure my mom understood and that is; I cannot control what anyone else says or does BUT I can control how I process it and how I choose to respond. It would be lovely if my kids didn’t fight and there was little drama on the stepfamily front but reality strikes and I cannot control the many people and situations I inherited when I said “I do” to a wonderful man with two kids.

That’s why this new ebook Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace that I co-authored with Gayla Grace is so near and dear to my heart. And I’m excited to announce it is now available at all major ebook retailers. This book was written to help you feel peace in your heart and in your home. Our Ebook is available for Kindle, ipad, nook, kobo, ereader and more and at all major e-retailers.


You may remember that together, Gayla and I co-authored  and published “Thriving at the Holidays: Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace” in 2011. Due to the amazing response and great feedback, we decided to write a second edition and make the title a little shorter (you could barely tweet it out last year).

Gayla and I have poured our own experiences, failures, successes, knowledge and most importanly our hearts into this book. You will find practical tips and tools to use today to bring peace and joy to YOUR heart and therefore into YOUR home.

In addition to all the practical tools and tips, the book has a heartfelt prayer you can say during the holidays and beyond, yummy recipes, and great ideas for creating your own unique stepfamily holiday traditions.

Our book is 37 pages and chalked full of great tips. We deal with managing expectations, scheduling, self and couple care, creating and maintaining boundaries, remaining hopeful and so much more. This book is formatted for the busy stepparent; easy and fast to ready. If you don’t have an ereader, it’s no problem. You can download a free e-reader for your computer.

Smom T-shirt (size S, M, L, XL, XXL – winners choice)
Smom Brushed Twill Cap
Smom Ceramic Mug
Smom Stainless Steel Travel Mug
$65.00 total value

To thank all of you for checking out the book and to spread some holiday cheer, I’m giving away a Smom gift basket from my e-store. Please enter below for a chance to win a CafeSmom gift basket. Contest closes at midnight EST Monday, December 10th. You can enter daily.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Every person has their joys and their struggles. And every person feels support and encouragement when they find others who are navigating their same journey.

One of the greatest blessings of our stepmom community is the encouragement, inspiration, support and understanding we give each other. We are authentic about our struggles while striving to remain positive and without putting others down.

To better understand the needs of stepmoms, I have teamed up with @RedHeadStepmom on Twitter to conduct an intensive survey to understand the many relationships in a stepmom’s life and how it impacts her “happiness quotient.”

The survey is being sent to stepmoms via email in order to preserve the integrity of the data (to ensure stepmoms only fill it out). This is an important research study and we want to hear from YOU!!!

Please email me at heather@cafesmom.com to participate in the survey.  The results will be shared on my site in December and will be sent to those who provide resources to stepmoms. Please email me today!

By better understanding our challenges and our joys, we can better serve YOU!

Encouragement. Support. Inspiration. Resources. Together our stepmom community is strong!



Thank you so much for participating. YOUR Voice Matters. You MATTER!!!!

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