Happy Meal with a side of visitation

Sitting next to my brother in McDonald’s PlayPlace yesterday opened my eyes to world of traveling visitation. Its not your normal run-of-the-mill visitation that you have with a local parent, where you have a weekend together. I’m talking about the parents that have to travel to see their children, whether it be a half-hours drive or even a flight across the United States.

We drove five hours to where they live in California, and spent seven hours in court rooms or other government buildings. Following a long hard day of roadblock after roadblock, we drove another thirty miles to pick up they boys, only to drive thirty miles back to town to spend three hours with them. My brother was exhausted from the drive, emotionally letdown from all the legal mumbo jumbo, and court hoola hoops he was jumping through. Seeing them was by far the highlight of the day, the way they came running down their hill to their dad waiting with tears and open arms was enough to make anyone tear up. Their smiles were from ear to ear, they had missed him since his last visit in July and were beyond ecstatic that he was there.  Knowing that his visitation time with his sons was limited, he soaked up every bit of it that he could,  that realization was visible all over his face. He would look at the kids, laugh, hug them and as they would turn away it was if the flame within him was blown out.

Watching my brother snapping pictures of his boys, smiling at them, laughing with them, and hanging on every word of “Dad – watch me” or “Dad guess what?” I wondered how many other kids at that playground were there for visitation also.  When traveling out of town, depending on the time allowed for the visit, its hard to find a quality place for quality time. Many travelers arranging with a custodial parent will use a common place, a place easily located and well known, and helps when there is a playground close by. It was the first time I saw McD’s as anything more than a fast food joint with a cool playground and a yummy strawberry shake. Today this popular drive-thru was a drop off place for parents, a visitation station for those from out-of-town and the place where some -parents sat smiling soaking in every detail of their child – only to face saying goodbye shortly after.

The boys were having a blast in the playground area and would take turns running back to their dad to hug him, to talk to him, just the exciting realization that he was there. They both kept wanting to put on the costumes dad had bought them at the local Halloween City store.  To them this time was fun – to my brother it was wonderful outlined with heartbreak – because he knew he would be leaving them again. To be honest it hurt me as well. This was the first time I had met my nephews, and I too was saying goodbye to them.

The judges in these cases, granted the cases where parents are deserving of the visitation, really need to put traveling time into consideration. After a twelve hour day, a three hour visit seems ridiculous to me. Giving a three hour visit, that takes 10 hours of drive time in all, once a week – is of course a blessing to see your children, but then again its hell. Why not an overnight, or a weekend? It just seems that the system has a lot of things backwards if you ask me, but luckily in my brothers case this will all be ending soon.

After kissing the boys and snapping one last photograph, they were off with their Mom, and my brother settled into his seat in the car. What was on his mind for sure, I couldn’t say, I told him it was okay to cry, and he said he already had. Those boys are who he is, they are what makes him alive, and although he has a beautiful happy little boy here at home as well, you could tell his family just wasn’t complete yet. Even his wife, was saddened to not have these boys more, to get to interact, have them bond closer to their little brother and feel the closeness a family should feel.

For that day though, we were happy for that hamburger happy meal with a side of visitation.

Have you ever had a drive-thru visitation of sorts?

 

Know…

Inspired by the movie: Lifted

When all feels wrong

and the road to happiness too far gone

When the load feels to heavy to bear

Know there is someone always there

When you feel alone, like no one can ever understand

and then you reach out to find, there is no helping hand

When you feel you failed at yet another of life’s tests

Know you have someone out there better than all the rest

When struggles seem to often, with no repreive in sight

and every need requires some out of reach exhausting fight

When second guessing & worrying becomes the norm

Know you have someone shielding you from the storm

When you look around and see nothing, yet feel your not alone

and you are missing someone, and reach for the phone

When you catch a glimpse of someone out of the corner of your eye

Know there’s someone near you,  who never truly says goodbye

See you next blog – Jess

Ten reasons our blended family works!

After reading many educated articles, I decided to detail what works in our home – in our family. We may not go about it right, and people may disagree but in our home, we are happy. We follow these 10 rules and are a very close blended family. I hope this helps you a little.

  • Discipline when the discipline needs to be done and per the situation – (no fair about it, and no waiting)

One of the reasons our blended family works is because we are a family. When my children do something that needs reprimanding, punishment or discipline, they get it per the situation and in that moment. There is no waiting until Dad gets home, or waiting for Mom to get home – and no difference whether step-child or not. If you have trust within your relationship, then the basic understanding of appropriate punishment should be understood. Ensuring that children’s behavior and respect for the parent exists at all times, not just when a certain parent or both parents are home. It also shows the children that you are a team!

  • Keep a united front – (even if you agree only to disagree)

This is the one I still struggle with, although I see and feel the importance. If you are anything like me and have Bio-Kids as well as Step-kids, you may suffer from ” they are just kids babe, geez!” for all kids involved. I stick up for ALL of them and can be a little pushover at times. But, trust me when I get my fill – I get my fill! After my repeated interjections, I noticed two things. First, they would go around husband all together and come to me to ask for, ask to, or ask anything. Second, if my husband told them to do something, they would come to me to “check” if they had to obey. This made me snap out of it and I started answering any query’s with ” I don’t know what did Dad say?”. They caught on pretty quick and it created better communication with my husband and I, and the kids learned to respect my husband more, and even me for not being a pushover. Remember children crave discipline and schedules, normalcy is key.

  • Tend to your marriage – (without you two, this family would be broken again. Let them see that happiness can exist  after divorce)

Following a tough couple of weeks, and endless crap from “the other parent” I felt like the glass was half empty. The husband and I were fighting, I was going to bed sad and worried about our marriage, the kids, everything. We had lost focus on us – we focused only on all the negative going on and the kids and their needs but not us at all. We forget to talk, to ask how the others day was – to even greet the other with a simple kiss. My husbands grandmother told me that regardless of her day, or her husbands day, she would be waiting by door when he got home with a big kiss and hug. Sounds a little silly, I know, but – it makes a huge difference.  Go on a date night, go see a movie, order pizza in and have it by candle light.  When the kids go to bed, play a game of cribbage, or even a video game – maybe a boxing game if your frustrated!! Any interaction is better than none, and will almost always open up the lines of communication. It is important for kids to see that just because they are part of a broken home, that they don’t have to continue to be. That sometimes things fall about in order to let other things work out. Seeing your parents happy, whether step or otherwise  is a good feeling for a child and an important feeling.

  • Take a trip – (even if it’s just a couple hour drive to a water park)

Following the tough couple of weeks above, I planned a trip without anyone knowing, not even the hubs! We were going only 3 hours away to a water park. We would leave on Saturday and stay one night in a hotel (kids always love a hotel-especially if there is a pool) and then come home Sunday in time to get our youngest back to mom. The excitement of them not knowing where we were going, was a thrill for them and myself. We all talked during the car-ride and played some games, the husband reached over to hold my hand as we drove. My love tank was filling up – and everyone was happy. Getting away – no matter the distance is huge for any family, but blended families where you get to deal with two sets of “other parents” sometimes we just need a break! With work and everyday life, we drowned out and sometimes take advantage of the people closest to us. Taking time to remedy that works wonders. We didn’t spend tons of money or eat at 5-star restaurants – but we did have a fantastic weekend that put everything back into prospective and back on track.

  • Encourage them talking about the other parent, discourage any negative comments as well. (I know, but trust me)

During our week with “little man” he talks non-stop about uncles, grandparents and even mom. As annoying as sometimes it is, and even hard to seem actively interested in every story – it’s worth it for a few reasons.
First, you can almost bet – the other side isn’t like that. In our situation he isn’t allowed to talk about me and dad to anyone on their side. This creates confusion, self-doubt, and unnecessary concern for a child. They should be able to love and share about anything they feel. I won’t lie and say that I don’t ever nod and say “oh really, wow, that’s great” without full knowing what awesome thing mom did – but to him he is happy he is allowed to say it! I still have to elbow my husband, when I hear him muttering under his breath, but he for the most part gets it too.
Second, is that “kids say the darnedest things” right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in a conversation where all of sudden I will click in that something is being said that we should be listening to. Kids share all kinds of stuff, mom’s moved, mom has a new job, mommy’s boyfriend locks me in a closet – you just never know! Pay attention, and when necessary keep track and document it.
Third, and most importantly is that you are creating a bond, a trust with your stepchildren. If they feel like they can talk to you about anything, they will do just that. If they feel like you hate the other parent – they will withhold, reject, and even possibly remain loyal only to the other parent. They should love their parents, even if they are crappy parents and we just wish they’d take a long walk of a short pier – its about them, not us. It goes the same with badmouthing the parent – if you allow it in your home, they will carry it to the other home and vice verse. Its always best to air on the side of caution and expect the same and you provide.

  • Don’t treat them any different (Treat them how you’d want a stepparent to treat your children)

When the kids are home, they are home. This isn’t a pit-stop, it isn’t temporary or pretend – this is real life and a real home. We eat meals together, run errands together, attend kids sporting events and school functions together. It should be the same in your home. Children need to feel included, welcome, and at home whether they share your home full-time  or part time. If you have children in your home all the time, and one or two that are part-time – they need to feel like it was still their home, their room or whatever else while they were gone. If there is a rule for one child, it should be the same for the other, within reason of course. Your stepchild should never be less while in your home, ever.

  • Allow them to call you what they want (respectfully of course)

Here it is, the elusive, she we or shouldn’t we allow them to call us mom or dad? The answer is quite simple – YES. If the child wants to call you mom or dad, let them. If they want to call you Joe, or Molly, let them. Any variance of the two are acceptable per your home when it is their choice. Should you force them to call you mom, or force them to call you Molly? Absolutely not!  This goes with the Don’t treat them any different above, most of the time children especially younger – mimic siblings. When you have children calling you mommy or daddy and one that doesn’t, he most likely will at some point because he wants to be just like them. Or, even school age kids who will talk about their mom and dad at home, and you’ll see that even if they don’t call you it at home, they may at school to friends or officials, just to not be different.  I couldn’t tell my 1 year old at the time, that he couldn’t call me mommy, and that only brother and sister could. All it does is make them feel like less, not part of the family – and in our home we are a FAMILY.

  • Ditch the word:  Step (unless you’re talking about the ones that lead upstairs)

We never introduce the kids on either side as our step-son or step-daughter. My husband always says “these are my kids” or “this is my daughter” even though they are technically his step-kids. The same goes for me. In fact most people don’t know where a blended family until we share it, if we share it. The kids call their step-dad by his name or whatever rendition slips out, but at school, practice, or talking to others they always refer to him as their dad. By their choice. Step is an ugly four letter word and we just don’t use it. If you are looking for a way around it, and your uncomfortable saying they are your children, may be try “This is my husbands daughter”, or “My wife’s son”…etc.

  • Find a common hobby and share it ( or encourage their talent)

Every child has a desire or something they excel at. Watch them, interact with them and learn what this may be. It may even be something you do, that they begin to like or want to do also. Encouragement with children of any age is huge and goes a long way. Not to mention the undivided personal time with them is priceless.

  • Don’t step-back while they are in your home. (Remember: it’s your home too!)

Almost every article, at many educated women with years more experience and degrees, all say to step back – I say STEP UP. Last time I checked we lived in a world where the women are equal  to men, and this home I live in is as much mine as it is his (even though the ice cream in the freezer & the hubs don’t seem to agree). Therefore, when his son is in our home, he is just as much mine as his – okay? Granted,  on Sunday when he goes home, he is not mine as much – but still is mine in our home. If he is sick, or my children are home sick with my husband, we care for them, if they need to be taken to a doctor, we take them.  We do not sit back and wait for the other, nor will we ever. It is no different then if my stepson were on the potty and needed to be wiped, and I go do it. Am I supposed to tell him to wait until dad gets home, or just hold your potty till later because I am only your step-mom? NO WAY! We are a family, all for one and one for all.  Even daycare providers care more for children than “they say” Step-moms should be allowed to. That’s ridiculous – and I refuse to step back.

What do you think is missing? Did I forget a key element?

See you next blog – Jess

Are we stepparents or are we family?

 

 

Earlier this week if you follow my Facebook page, you’ll remember my posting about some educated and experience stepmother’s in this world have very firm ideas of where the line is drawn in parenting.

In The Erin Experiment, a blog post written in 2010 she writes:

“Regardless of if the Bio-Mom is a crack head and Dad is an emotionally unavailable dork, a very important rule to remember for stepmom sanity is that you are not Mom or Dad – do your best to not act like one. “

and goes on to say in next exercise to be a more content Step-Mom that:

“As women, we’re going to trend to want to swoop in and rescue the children when life has dealt them a blow. If you’re making phone calls to the doctor’s office because Dad can’t be bothered or remember, step away from the telephone and write down what it is you’re doing and how you’re feeling. What you may start to notice is how much you’re doing for them and not for you.”

While I can appreciate her point of view and can see a validity to a certain extent – respectfully I disagree. If you are a parent to another child besides your stepchild – don’t you do these things already? Don’t you schedule appointments, make lunches, take and pickup from daycare, feed clothe and bath anyhow? Wouldn’t it seem kind of bitchy to not do for all the same?

I couldn’t imagine having my stepson come to me and need something, and for my response to be “okay sweetie, well daddy is not in at the moment, but I will write this down and when he gets home I will let him know”.  Fat chance, for three reasons. First – he is a child, and may child on our weeks, and I refuse to make him feel any less of a part of our family. Second, it’s not his fault his parents split up – he doesn’t deserve the third wheel treatment. Third, because I am an overachiever damn-it and I want to provide, support and love this little boy – who cares if I get stressed for 5 extra minutes – I’ll live!

In a home where they live by separate rules, separate families – in my opinion it does just that – Separates. Blending a family is hard enough without adding in what can and can’t be done, and by whom – its best to do your  best, love your best and treat all children the same. The kids don’t know the difference anyways – they know that in this house there is you and they know you take care of what they need and that all that matters. And, our spouses need us too – we all need help from someone at some point.

I realize life isn’t fair or easy – but when it can be – it should be.  When I took my kiddos school clothes shopping, the youngest isn’t in school yet and brother and sister were trying on shoes, he looked at me with bis big blue eyes and with his teeny squeaky little soft voice said “Mommy do I get new school shoes too”? When I said yes to him his heart damn near jumped out of his chest and he was so excited!! Now do you think that was because he got new shoes, or because he got to be involved and do what brother and sister were doing? I think it’s partly both, but more so the being involved.

How do you think he would have felt, if instead I said – “Oh honey, I’m sorry you’ll have to ask daddy when he gets home or have your mommy do it for you?”

See you next post – Jess

http://www.erinexperiment.com/2010/08/action-plan-for-being-more-content.html  blog post

http://oivindhovland.blogspot.com/2011_09_01_archive.html image used for blog.

What I want him to know…

One day without much notice this little blonde hair baby came totting into my home. Barely able to walk on your own, you were holding your daddy’s hand.  My life changed in that moment, almost the same as when you hear the words “you’re pregnant”. Except in my case, I didn’t have nine months to prepare. Didn’t spend countless hours searching for the perfect name, or daydreaming about whether you’d look like your father or me.  My body never carried you; I never felt your first kick or heard your first heartbeat. The love that created you, wasn’t mine, and the air you breath and the life you were given were not from me.  My heartbeat wasn’t the one you fell asleep to at night, and my voice wasn’t the one that would make you turn you head.                                                 

“There are a lot of things that I wasn’t – But listen to this instead”

Nine months of preparation was never needed with you, because you were someone I had prayed for all along. Countless hours are spent saying your name, sharing every funny little story, every sweet moment with whoever will listen to me share. Being just like your father, and having his smile and personality is all I could have ever hoped for.  The first time you laid your head on my chest, and fell asleep in my arms our heartbeats were one in the same. You were not someone else’s child; you in that moment became a part of me.  Your love was a gift to me, your innocence brought me youth, and your father showed me a completely new life.

You became a brother, and gained a big sister and brother.  Quickly you became best friends with your brother, and your sister couldn’t go anywhere without you.  They protected you, cared for you and loved you instantly, not because you were different, or special, or “extra” – instead it was because you are their brother.

Somewhere along the line, those nine months I lacked of worry and concern over how you would be or who you would be – I’ve made up tenfold.  Because when your heart hurts, mine does too. That’s why I want to say these things to you

My love for you is a bond that took time to create,

It’s not one that can be easily erased;

There will be times when you may have to choose,

My promise to you is to understand if I lose.

*****

My job as your stepmom is to understand,

I’ll always lend a helping hand;

Although my place may not be first,

I’ll be beside you through the worst.

*****

Your mother and I do have one thing we share,

Well two I guess to be honest & fair;

We of course share you, an adorable little man,

And we share moments of being your biggest fan.

I….I…am blessed

I’ve followed my heart, I’ve created my own path and I did it all for myself. I’ve failed, I’ve fallen and I did it in front of the world. I got back up, I learned from my mistakes, and I became a better person. I redefined my priorities, I fell deeper in love with my children and myself. I ended relationships and friendships, only to build new ones, or to allow for them to build new ones. I’ve never been the girl that does what she is told, I don’t sit back and watch and wait and see. I’ve allowed myself to feel, to love, to laugh and cry. I’ve dealt with loss, and goodbyes I never planned on, but am thankful for both.

I’ve learned I have alot of learning left to do, alot of mistakes to make still, and Im ready for whatever comes my way. I’m okay with people not understanding me, or thinking I do things wrong. I am okay with building my own path, my own way, because I am me, and thats who I plan to stay.

I’m thankful for my children, the ones I gave birth to, and the one that I get the pleasure of loving as if I did. I ‘m thankful for my daughters infectious personality, her smile and laughter that light up a room and the way she allows me to feel like the best mother in the world. And for, my son, who’s eyes light up my entire existence and wakes up my soul. My children are the greatest gifts and if i all I do in life is be their mother, I will be completely satisfied. I’m thankful for our home, which is modest but filled with fun, laughter and so much love.

I’m thankful for my husband, for his unorthodox approach to life, his dedication to family and his unwaivering ability to love me regardless. Im thankful for his family who has accepted us, my children, me with all my flaws, with open non-judgmental arms.

There isn’t a gift I would or could want, because God has blessed me with an amazing end to a year that could have ended so differently. My life is perfectly imperfect with a perfectly imperfect love, and I wouldnt want it any other way.