It’s Not Always Unicorns & Rainbows

Living in a blended family is tough… there are good days and there are bad days. Just remember that it is all dependent on your perspective. If you focus on the negative, then it will consume your life. Negativity can put a shadow on everything else in your day!

DON’T LET IT HAPPEN.

Life may not always be all unicorns and rainbows, but if you truly try to live like it IS all unicorns and rainbows, then you will love the transformation in your life. When we focus on the positive and take every baby step like a mountain has been conquered, then you start to realize that life is pretty darn fantastic.

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You realize that you aren’t the only one going through whatever it is that you are going through… and that if others can persevere and come out on top, then YOU CAN TOO.

As a co-parent, try to be proactive rather than reactive. Treat your ex like you want to be treated. Share information that you would want shared with you. Share only information with your children that you would want your ex to share with them. Never speak poorly of your ex in front of the kids or your friends (let’s be realistic… I mean, you are going to speak candidly about things with your closest friends and family, but there is no need to run your ex into the ground. It’s kind of a reflection on YOU too if you were married to the person for a while!!!!). Encourage a positive relationship with your children and your ex. Show your children how to live a life with grace and forgiveness… to love others unconditionally like Christ loves us.

Surround yourself with like-minded people who also live a life of grace and forgiveness and kindness and love. The more you surround yourself with those people, the harder it is for the negative and high conflict people to affect you. If negativity tries to seep in then IGNORE IT.

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Just follow the golden rule and things will slowly but surely get better. Hope is a wonderful thing and if there is one thing I can do today, I would like for it to be that I have given hope to someone who is going through a hardship of any kind. My children pick on me because I smile incessantly… but if my smile can boost just one person’s day or help me ignore negativity when it surrounds me, then I AM GOING TO KEEP ON SMILING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My wish is that you too can live a beautiful life full of love and laughter. It’s a wonderful place to be… I am blessed indeed.

HAPPY FRIDAY… xoxoxo Val

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There are NO Winners…

A common theme I have noticed in divorce situations is the desire between the exes to prove who is “the winner” and who is “the loser.” The conclusion I have reached is that if there are two parents who want to prove that they are the winner, then although the winner may be inconclusive… the loser is certain.

The KIDS are the losers.

Why do people have this innate desire to WIN? I know winning brings a feeling of euphoria, but why do these people choose this particular circumstance to try to win when the balance in the lives of their own children is the high price that is at stake?

The truth of the matter is that in divorce there are no winners. As I have written numerous times in the past, we are adults and we can get over ourselves and the situation. However, our ENTIRE focus should be on keeping things as balanced and normal as possible for our kids.

When I hear a child say, “I don’t want both parents there because that’s just weird,” then I immediately know that his or her parents handled the divorce wrong. Of course, this is assuming that there is no abuse present and that both parents are otherwise well-functioning people. The kids whose parents have put their own agendas aside for their kids are the kids who are comfortable loving both mom and dad, even in the same place – school performances, games, birthday parties. It’s the kids whose parents have tried their best to alienate their ex or undermine their ex who just want to avoid any contact between their parents because they know it won’t end well.

I get angry even as I type that because I just can’t understand how anyone who is any kind of a parent at all can purposefully put themselves and their own agenda above the happiness and security of their own children. I think those sad individuals are the ones who were probably never given role models on how to correctly behave in divorce situations. And I’ll take that even further to say they probably had no role model on how to be a respectable adult either.

Listen to your children. If they are not comfortable being near you both or they try to avoid situations where they have to invite you both to events, then YOU HAVE FAILED. You may feel like a winner because you have successfully convinced anyone who will listen how terribly you were wronged and how they too should despise your ex. Sorry, you can hang up your white hat because you don’t deserve it.

With that being said, it’s never too late to right the wrongs of the past.

Seek help. Even if your ex is unwilling, then you and your spouse need to attend co-parenting counseling on how to best help return some normalcy in the lives of your children. Therapists can be a great resource. I’ve gotten calls from two different friends who have recently started going to counseling with their ex and they both bring their spouses. If you can’t imagine doing that, then you need to rethink your priorities. In my opinion, those four couples are WINNERS. They are putting aside their own comfort to ensure the happiness of their children.

I’m excited about the future in our lives as we work hard to right the wrongs. At least I can go to bed at night and know that through it all we have given it our best. I’m hopeful. The kids deserve normalcy since they didn’t ask to go on this roller coaster with us. I want our kids to be the winners… even if it’s our expense.

What are you willing to do to fix your parenting failures??????

7 Deadly Sins of Co-Parenting

Published today by The Huffington Post……..

Co-parenting with someone who you admittedly would rather not deal with can be challenging and exhausting. Avoid these seven deadly sins of co-parenting so that you can work through the conflict to successfully raise your children – together.

Wrath – This is a common feeling for one going through a divorce. Wrath is an uncontrolled feeling of hatred and anger that cannot be quenched. Because of wrath, many of the other deadly sins of co-parenting are committed. While most people going through it feel they are justified in their wrath, the only ones who really suffer are the kids. If you feel that you have uncontrolled anger, then seek help. It won’t just benefit you… it will benefit your children.

Greed – This is a sin of excess where you have the desire to possess more than you need. In co-parenting, this takes the form of trying to “win.” You may find yourself in court trying to get more custody or more child support, while putting your children through the contentious battle without thinking about what is best for them. As a co-parent, you must be willing to share the children and encourage their relationship with the other parent. If you try to keep the children from the other parent, then the kids will remember it as they mature and the plan will ultimately backfire on you.

Sloth – This rears its ugly head in the form of laziness or failure to do what one should. In co-parenting, this is most likely seen in the inability to follow the Court Order. There may be some things in the Order that you don’t really see as important, but as long as there are little things to argue about with your ex, then you can never be the best co-parents that you can be. You must understand that you will be held accountable, do what you agreed to do, and things can slowly improve.

Gluttony – This is a sin of selfishness. If you choose to put your needs above the needs of your children, then you are being gluttonous. A glutton in co-parenting would be a parent who continues to fight. He/she can’t get enough of the drama and attention, so the fighting continues long after the conflict should have passed. These are the people who want to keep the divorce high conflict even when they are fully capable of working things out.

Envy – It’s easy to feel envy after divorce. You may envy your ex being in a new relationship or you may envy the fun trips your ex takes with your kids. Envy is being discontent with what you have while wanting what someone else has. Dante defined envy in Purgatorio as “a desire to deprive men of theirs.” Envy is difficult because it can cause you to make irrational decisions and can lead to depression through dissatisfaction. You have to focus on being happy with what you have.

Pride – This is the deadliest sin of all because it is the source of all the others. If you believe that you are better than others and you fail to recognize what benefit others may bring to the situation, then you are being proud. Ideally, when you are married, you discuss things with your spouse and make decisions jointly. After a divorce, you must attempt to continue to make decisions jointly, but the dynamics of the relationship are much different now. Don’t let pride get in the way. It is in the best interests of your children for you to swallow your pride and admit that your ex may handle a situation better than you. If it will benefit your child, then admit your weakness in that role and let your ex take care of it.

Lust – You may think of lust in a sexual way, but for the purposes of co-parenting I am referring to an intense desire for anything – power, money, time, control. Lust for control can ruin a co-parenting relationship. Co-parenting requires that you become business partners in an effort to raise your children. Just like in a business relationship, you cannot have a successful partnership if you are both fighting for control. A successful co-parenting relationship will require compromise and communication.

Lesson From The Wave

 

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The Durham Bulls had their opening night last night and it was so much fun! We only had two of our kids, so we had a smaller crew than normal, but it was a great time.  The sounds, the sights, the smells… and a W for the Bulls!!!! We have mini-season tickets, but since this game wasn’t included in our package we sat in the outfield.  I can say one thing with certainty, there was a lot of interesting people-watching going on!  I like our regular seats better because there aren’t many people in front of us, which allows me to focus my attention on the actual game rather than the people around me.

Hattie really wanted to get the wave going, so she was thrilled when a boy sitting near us decided to take matters into his own hands.  We always participate in the wave, but it was fun to see it close up from the start.

When the wave starts, you only have a small group of people who stand up, wave their arms and yell.  Each time they start the wave, it goes a little farther.  Then a little farther… until you have this:

This made me think about the snowball effect of negativity in divorce.  It may start out small with you nitpicking small transgressions you feel your ex is guilty of doing, but it can quickly get out of control with you becoming obsessed with bringing everything that you think he/she is doing wrong to light.  Usually this is actually done with good intentions.

This constant barrage of insignificant transgressions will only cause you to be miserable as you perceive the transgressions as personal attacks on you.  And one thing I have learned for sure in my life is that if I let things bother me based on the actions of other people, I am letting them win.  Not only that, but I am miserable while they continue to be happy.

I explained this concept to one of my girls the other day when she was talking about something that someone did that “made her angry.”  I told her that she couldn’t let someone else’s actions make her feel bad.  She has to choose to let it go (yes, that was my motto well before Frozen came out).  My example to her was, “You are going to make yourself miserable thinking about it while she could be having the happiest, best day of her life!”  Her response was, “Not if I tell her how it makes me feel.” And I said, “But she may not care, so it will make you feel even worse.”  LET IT GO…

In divorce, we have to learn to let things go that we may not want to let go and we need to choose our battles.  You and your ex are not going to agree on things.  Take that to the bank.  But you have to choose to let things go so that you can be happy and move on with your life.  You have to stop the wave before it takes off and focus on your own happiness.

I often admit my own inadequacies when I write, which is what a lot of people say they enjoy about my blog… and I do admit that I remember the days when I used to email my ex about things that my kids would tell me as soon as they came back from his home.  I remember being infuriated with him and I remember him saying (a phrase I heard often that would only infuriate me more), “Per usual you don’t know what you are talking about.”  Ouch… I had verbalized in bullet points my argument based on something the kids told me and I got… gulp, THAT.

It took a while, but after being blown off enough in my quest to be heard by him I realized it wasn’t worth the energy or the anger.  I was furious and he couldn’t care less about how I felt.  What was the point??? I felt bad and he probably didn’t think another thought about it.

If you know someone who is in the throes of divorce, don’t be a negative advocate who only fans the flames of anger by telling them things you hear or encouraging them to “teach him/her a thing or two.”  The best friend you can be would be to encourage them to move along… transcend…. choose their battles... let it go.  If you can help them refocus and remember the good that has come, then maybe they can stop focusing on the negative.  You can help them stop the wave of negativity that has taken over their lives.  Change is very difficult, so they will need your support.

I need to change my eating habits, so I would appreciate some support on that if you’re in the helping mood…

Yep... lunch today. Eeek.

Yep… lunch today. Eeek.

 

 

Dear Summer, BRING IT.

I’ve always heard that things have to get worse before they can get better.   If that’s the case, then I have never been more ready for the “BETTER” to arrive.  As you most likely read in my post, I’m Wearing Mascara Again, I have been dealing with some life changing situations that have been very difficult for me emotionally.  Add to that sick kids who brought home some sort of plague-like respiratory virus that has put me to bed since last Monday and you can understand why I have been a little MIA as of late.

I’m beginning to think that winter is just not my best time of the year.  It seems that every winter something has happened that has caused me to wish and crave for the spring/summer.  Two years ago I fainted in my driveway in January and felt like I had hit rock bottom, then Joe and I reconnected in March and, well, here we are.

As I said in the Divorce Care Package feature on The Huffington Post Divorce site, the beach is my “happy place” that helped me for years as I was struggling with my divorce.  Since then it has become the place where Joe and I were able to build our relationship.  Every weekend we didn’t have kids, we headed to the beach.  Since I feel the most peace and happiness at the beach, it only makes sense that I relate those same happy feelings with summertime.

This winter has had its share of troubling issues.  Things have come to light in different aspects of my life that have been difficult for me to process and understand.  We have also just changed up our custody schedule so that my kids are now spending 50/50 with both their dad and me.  While I think this change will be positive for them (or I would have never agreed to it), they have been primarily with me for almost ten years now.  Change can be a good thing, but it’s not always easy to swallow when it means less time with your kids.  Thankfully I will still see them every day since they will come home from school to my house like normal and we stay in close contact even when they are with their dad.

That change affects us all because now my schedule is all crazy mixed up… and you guys KNOW how I feel about the importance of an organized schedule!!!!!  Now all of a sudden we have Monday nights with no kids, Tuesday nights with my kids, Wednesday night with my step-kids, and Thursday night with all four kids together.  This makes dinner planning a little different, but it’s nothing I can’t handle once I get used to the new way.

Emotionally I have been okay with this, although I have been struggling a little with the fact that my son and my step-son will be finished with middle school and will be going to high school in a few short months.  I may or may not have cried the entire way home from high school orientation (and proceeded to sign the boys up to attend a study skills boot camp one Saturday because I was scared straight about how intense high school can be).  And before I could even wrap my brain around the fact that they will both be in driver’s ed before I can possibly accept it, my son blindsided me.

My son has decided that he wants to go to high school out where his dad lives.  That may not seem like a big change, but I live in the heart of the city and their dad lives on a farm 25 minutes out in the country.  It has been a great experience for the kids to have the best of both worlds, but it blew me away that he wants to leave his friends to go out to school where he knows no one.  While my first instinct was to put my foot down and disallow it, I immediately felt a tremendous amount of pride at the job that his father and I have done.

How impressive that my 14 year old was brave enough to talk to me about something that you know could not have been easy for him.  He was very non-emotional and just discussed it with me.  While I admittedly didn’t handle it with as much grace as he, I was impressed with his candor and his strength in sharing his desires.  I may not agree with him, but I am going to stand behind him.  I would much rather he try it out and see how he does, then prohibit it and leave him resentful that I wouldn’t allow it.

Maybe it was my weakened immune system due to the stress of visiting schools and making major decisions, but last week I was hit by a truck.  At least it felt like a truck, but it was a potent kid virus.  I have literally been in bed since last Monday.  Needless to say, being sick makes me emotional and since I was ALREADY emotional, the past week has been a beast.

The one redeeming factor of the week was dragging myself out of bed on Saturday night to take the kids and grandmothers to our favorite Japanese restaurant to celebrate birthdays.  Although I couldn’t eat much since the smells were so potent, it was wonderful to be in the land of the living again… and even more wonderful to surprise all four kids with our planned trip to Disneyworld in June!  Seeing their excitement and knowing that summer will be here before we know it has lifted me out of the emotional fog I have been in.

Now I can go back to focusing on the important things in life.  No, NOT FACEBOOK (I gave up FB for Lent).

FAMILY.

I want to spend every second I can breathing in every moment of my kids.  It makes my heart ache to think about only having four more years with our boys under our protective wings, so instead I am going to focus every ounce of my energy on enjoying every second with them until then.   I want to stop worrying about the small stuff.  I want to laugh at their silly jokes and enjoy them harassing each other in the car.  I want to try to remember every second, because I have learned to accept that there aren’t that many before they are out of our nest.

 

 

 

 

Divorce Care Package – Huffington Post Divorce

Posted today on Huffington Post Divorce.

If there’s ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it’s during the divorce process. That’s why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we’ll show you what things — books, movies, recipes — helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well, too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

These days, writer Valerie DeLoach is happily remarried and busy blogging about blended family on her site, Life In A Blender. But for a long time before that, she was a divorced mom of two figuring out how to get her bearings after years of being married.

“What really got me through my divorce is hope,” she told us. “Not necessarily hope to find a man, but hope that the everything is going to be okay. Although I stayed a single mom for almost nine years, I knew that God had a plan for me that would be extraordinary. I was right!”

Below, DeLoach shares a few things that inspired her to move forward after her divorce, from a much-needed trip to New Orleans, to a sticky note that told her everything she needed to know about co-parenting with her ex.

Why ‘Choose Your Battles’ Became My Rallying Cry After Divorce

Sharing Toothbrushes & Whatnot…

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Our kids – LOVE THEM

We have survived almost ten months now as a newly blended family with little to no internal friction.  A couple of small bumps in the road, but no devastating crashes.  Pretty good for having a house with two teenage boys and two pre-teen girls who live in pretty close quarters.

Who wouldn't want to hang out in this room all the time????

Who wouldn’t want to hang out in this room all the time????

I won’t say “tight quarters” because although the boys share a room and the girls share a room, they are unquestionably large rooms.  The girls have two double beds in their room and still have plenty of extra room to lounge around and watch tv or play games.  The boys have bunk beds with a sofa and coffee table set up in their room – the perfect Xbox set-up for teen boys.  So they are definitely not suffering in any sense.

They do, however, all have to share the jack & jill bathroom that is between their rooms.

Four kids. Two sinks.  That wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it also means four kids and four toothbrushes.  Recipe for disaster… Last week one of the kids was brushing their teeth (I will be vague so no one feels like they are being made fun of).  Another child also went to brush teeth and was confused when their toothbrush wasn’t where it was supposed to be.  It was quickly realized it was because the other child was using it to brush their teeth!! Ewwwwwww.  Everyone was REALLY grossed out and I ended up having to give new toothbrushes to pretty much everyone in the house JUST IN CASE.

Four kids. One toilet.  Thankfully this hasn’t been a big deal because two of our kids leave for school just as the other two are waking up, so different wake times usually mean different potty times.  There are the occasions where I wake to hear quiet footsteps on the hardwood floors in our bedroom and see one of the kids standing near the bed with a deer in headlights expression.  I then hear the whisper, “There’s someone in our bathroom.  Can I use yours?”  We are still trying to figure out why they don’t just go downstairs to another bathroom, but whatever.

Four kids. One shower.  Fifty thousand towels.  I kid you not, THEY GO THROUGH SOME TOWELS.  We recently picked up 18 towels at one time.  18 towels between four kids.  And Joe, the obsessive laundry guy (THANK GOD), does laundry pretty much every single day, so they were towels accumulated over just a few days.  One of the kids said, “I don’t like to reuse towels because I always think someone else used the towel after me. That’s gross.”  Ironically, that was the same child who had someone else’s toothbrush in their mouth.  Nice try.

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I’m a smart girl…

Being the problem solver I am, I resolved the “towel drama” by pulling out my old Bernina embroidery machine and each child now has two personalized towels to use each week.  They are responsible for hanging them up and no one is allowed to use anyone else’s towel.   It’s been working beautifully for a few weeks now!

Overall, the blended family experience for us all has been wildly successful.  Sure we have had to institute more rules in the house – with double the family, there becomes double the responsibility.  Everyone must carry their own weight, which has been a struggle for one child specifically.   We’ve instituted allowance, but rather than be happy that they now get paid in addition to the new rules, they are mad at how we “handle their money.”  Huh.  We also have more activities with four kids, so we all go to more stuff now… which again can be a major source of angst for a teenage boy who is all about his own wants and needs.  So we are working on it.  Considering it hasn’t even been a year yet, we are doing just fine. It’s constant give and take… and I know that someday the kids will realize just how good we have it.

I’m thankful for every second we have with each of them because it won’t be long before they are driving and out the door…  I may be a hot mess heap of hysteria at that time, so I will enjoy every single second of toothbrush/bathroom/towel drama until that day.  Then Joe and I will sit in our rocking chairs on the porch in New Bern looking out over the river and we will laugh remembering how much fun each and every day was with our party of six.

There Is No “Step” In My Love For Her…

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I stayed up long after my family went to bed last night just so I could decorate the kitchen for Valentine’s Day.  We have been snowed in here in North Carolina since Tuesday, so I had to think of a homemade way to tell my family just how much they mean to me on this special day.

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They ARE my life… nothing else matters.

I made a heart for each person in my family and I wrote all the things that I love about them.  On Joe’s, I wrote a letter telling him all of the many reasons I love him.  This is the heart I made for my daughter Crawford:

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So many people have a cynical view of Valentine’s Day, but even though I have spent most of my life not celebrating it with a “Valentine,” I see it as such a joyous celebration of love and life.  It’s a day that makes me want to be even kinder to everyone I encounter – whether it be at work or Starbucks.  No matter who you are, you know that it feels good to be loved.

When my husband walked out of the bedroom this morning, I literally popped up in bed with a smile.  I can’t explain the joy I felt just knowing that he would feel loved when he walked into the kitchen and saw his heart.  I reached over and read an email telling me about the death of my friend’s husband who has been fighting cancer.

My heart fell… and it fell far.

What a juxtaposition of feelings I was feeling.  The joy of love and life.  The sadness of loss and death.  All within a few moments.  My sweet husband brought me breakfast in bed soon after and all I could do was think about my friend losing her husband… on Valentine’s Day.  It certainly set the stage for a pretty sad day.

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He loves me…

It was slow moving this morning as I got ready for work.  I started letting everything bother me.  I got sad thinking about not having my daughter and son with me on Valentine’s Day.  Silly, I know.  It’s not like it’s a “major holiday,” but I was disappointed just the same. My heart was feeling very weighted down.

Then my sweet step-daughter came skipping into my bathroom and said, “Do you want to dress up with me today?”  She wanted to wear a heart bathrobe and a pink hairbow to go to work with me.  In a quick dismissal I said, “It’s a place of business, so we need to look nice.”  As she walked out of the room looking disappointed, I decided in that moment that I couldn’t let the bad news ruin my entire day.  I needed to live my day to the fullest and do whatever I could to make the day a little better for someone, ANYONE, else.

So Hattie and I headed in to work and she said, “Since I am not at school today and can’t tell all my classmates Happy Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell everyone I see Happy Valentine’s Day from this point on…”

And she did.

For the rest of the day, that sweet girl said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to EVERYONE she encountered.  One of my co-workers took her down to get cupcakes for the office and she said it to every person in the cafe (including my boss – who she didn’t know was my boss).

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Yummy cupcakes from Cafe Carolina

When we left work, she spoke to every person we passed on the way to the car.  Once in the car, she yelled out the window to people on the side of the road and people pumping gas.  She said it to the homeless man sitting alone in the corner at Starbucks.  She said it to the old couple getting in their car next to us.  Here is a quick video I took: http://youtu.be/jQJrw8OAFso.

She had said she would stop once she got to 30, but once she got to 30 she said, “You know how sometimes you have extra valentines, so you give those out too?  I’m going for the extra.”

SHE MADE MY DAY.  And not to mention she made the day of numerous people all over Raleigh.  And all by showing just a little bit of kindness and a smile.  And that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.  It’s not about romantic love.  It’s about showing those around us love and by showing those we love just how much we love them.  THAT is what it’s all about.  It’s about making others feel good.  It’s about spending time when people. It’s about telling our family and friends WHY we love them.

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My valentine for my dashingly handsome husband….

Tonight at dinner, when my step-daughter said to my husband, “We had the best day ever,” I realized just how much joy she brought to my day.  And then she looked at me and said, “I have a poem for you for Valentine’s Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, Yes I have a big smile, but you do too.”

Yes, sweet girl.  I do tonight and it is because of you…

We Can Get Through Anything Together

As published today by Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/blended-families-we-can-get-through-anything_b_4557028.html

Our party of six had our first family drama this week.  I’m proud to proclaim that it took almost eight months of marriage before it happened (which admittedly is MUCH LONGER than I expected it to take with four kids in the house).  Joe was picking the boys up from youth group when the girls got dropped off from church.  I was cooking dinner and it was a seemingly peaceful Sunday evening – the proverbial calm before the storm.

It was one of those times when I was happily humming and doing what I love to do best when one of the girls came in the kitchen crying… and all hell broke loose.  Apparently one of the girls overheard the other saying ugly things about her while they were at church.  Another friend was involved who apparently stirred the pot a little too.  As a result, my step-daughter was saying that her mom would come get her and my daughter was refusing to discuss it.

And Joe was not home… so I was left to handle it alone.  While my negotiation skills and people skills serve me well in all areas of business, they are no match for two upset preteen girls.  Although Joe was not there, I knew it had to be handled and that I was the mother in the home.  I knew where to turn… I prayed.

I prayed for strength and knowledge.  I prayed for the strong foundation of love that these girls clearly have.  I prayed that the right words would come to me.  I prayed that I would remain unbiased and not be too hard on either one of them.  I prayed that God would be with us.  Then I called them downstairs for dinner.

Of course they were none too happy because I made them sit in their regular seats at the table (next to each other) although no one else was at the table.  And then I began, “I know neither one of you wants to talk about this and I am not going to make you… but I am going to make you sit here and listen to me.”  The words just flowed from my heart… about love and forgiveness and family.  I stressed the importance of communication and how no matter how uncomfortable it may be to communicate it is worthwhile to avoid situations like this.   How if things are not discussed, then they can build up inside.

My daughter said, “But it’s HARD to tell someone something when you know it’s going to upset them.  You’re an adult. It’s easier for you.”

Boy was she wrong.  It is not easier as an adult.  Even with Joe, my soul mate, it’s hard to broach sensitive subjects.  My heart beats fast and I get the nervous sweats, but once I get it out, I feel so much better.  Holding it in and trying to just move on will not help the situation improve in any way.  That’s the very thing that ends friendships and leads to the demise of marriages.

It’s especially hard to broach difficult subjects in co-parenting situations when you feel very strongly about something and want to discuss it with the other parent.  This is someone to whom you no longer have emotional ties but you would like to have a heart to heart about your children.  You have to take a leap of faith when trying to discuss the topic since while seeking honest communication, you may instead get chastized or ignored completely.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS almost 8 months ago.  They wanted in on the marriage action so they re-enacted Joe proposing.

Thankfully, since we consistently encourage open communication in our home, the girls calmly took over and talked about what happened.  They semi-apologized (enough for me to be satisfied for the moment anyway) and went their separate ways for a while.  Joe got home and I was snuggling with my step-daughter on the sofa.  We all chatted a little and then my daughter came downstairs and snuggled up on the couch with us.  They exchanged what this time seemed to be heartfelt apologies and the night seemed to end on a positive note.

While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg with two girls who are quickly approaching their teens, I am very proud of how they handled the first true controversy in our home.  My step-daughter had the initial “flight” feeling, but we stressed that no matter what happens in our home, we can get through it as a family.  Neither girl will be allowed to run away from problems.  We are teaching our children to face their fears and any controversies.  We are raising strong leaders, not quitters who place blame on others.

Last night while the girls were sprawled out on the floor in front of the fire in their jammies watching a movie, giggling and being silly, I made eye contact with my amazingly handsome husband and we just smiled at each other.  Our hearts were filled with joy and my husband even commented on how he didn’t want the night to end.  We were witnessing firsthand the forgiveness of siblings and the strength of their love.

First lesson taught and it was a success.  Our family is strong.  Family comes first.  Friends are fleeting but siblings are forever.  No one in your life will have your back like your siblings will.  No running away from controversy.  We face any adversity life may throw our way (no matter how uncomfortable it may be).  And we learn from it and grow closer in the process.

We can get through anything TOGETHER.

My Christmas Wish List For Divorced Families

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Update 12/22/13 — This blog was published today by the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/my-christmas-wish-list-fo_b_4487571.html

Christmas can be tough following a divorce. If you are single, then you may find yourself alone during a very vulnerable and emotional time. I know, because I was there. I will never forget my first Christmas Eve service at church without my children almost ten years ago. It was a baptism service which made it even harder for me. As we sang Silent Night in the candlelight, tears streamed silently down my face.

Things have certainly improved since then and I am thankful that I have been blessed with an amazing husband and two wonderful step-children who God clearly handpicked for my children and me. The week before Christmas is not quite as lonely as it used to be while my kids are at their dad’s house.

Emotions run high around the holidays and co-parenting can be even more difficult when emotions are out of control. As I have said numerous times on my blog, when emotions are high, reason is gone. This can create a very tense and anxiety filled environment for your children during a time that should be happy and carefree.

So here is my CHRISTMAS WISH LIST FOR DIVORCED FAMILIES for this holiday season:

Faith – Have faith that even if you and your former spouse have a high conflict relationship that you can put the anger aside for your children for the holidays. Because of the distrust present after divorce, you may expect the worst from your ex, but I pray that you will try to remain positive and hope for the best. You cared enough for this person at one time to have children together, so keep the faith that you each can step up and be the people your children need you to be. Your children need you to put aside your feelings and focus solely on their feelings and needs over the holidays.

Joy – Try your hardest to find the joy in the season. So many people during the holidays complain about the crowds and the urgency and rush of everything rather than focusing on what they can do to bring joy to others. Having a blended family can cause more of an upheaval because you may have different kids going different ways. Missing your children can cause you to focus solely on yourself, but try to think of things you can participate in that will bring joy to others which will ultimately bring joy into your own heart. Help at a food kitchen, adopt a family for Christmas or ring the Salvation Army bell. Don’t allow anger to flood over you because you are having to be kind to your ex. Focus instead on the joy it brings your children.

Love – If you are a single parent, remember that being alone during the holidays is not an indication that you are unloved. It’s such a crazy and hectic time that it’s easy to feel that way since friends who are normally good about checking in regularly may have limited time available to call. You may have to make more of an effort than normal, but reach out to your support system during this time so that you can keep your head above water. Surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible. Sometimes just being around friends is all we need. If you work hard to show love to others, then it will only work to increase the love in your own heart if you allow it.

Peace – When emotions are high during the holidays, you may feel like lashing out at your ex even more than normal. Old wounds reopen and anger bleeds out. Do whatever you can to not only keep the peace with your former spouse, but extend an olive branch for the holidays – be kind, be flexible, have the kids call the other parent more than normal, follow the golden rule. It’s in the best interests of your children that you do whatever you can to keep the peace. While I firmly believe that should be the case EVERY DAY, it seems many people have a hard time extending any kindness or compromise to their former spouse, even though it is clearly what the children wish. So for the kids, at least over the holidays, keep the peace.

Hope – If this Christmas has not turned out to be exactly what you wanted it to be, please remain hopeful. Hope is such an amazing thing… because even in our darkest hours, we can remain hopeful of the good that is to come. Hope is the belief that all of the pieces of your life that lay broken on the floor will be scooped up by the hand of God and rearranged into something so much better. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work during the holidays and remain hopeful that you and your former spouse can do what you need to do to avoid similar issues in the future.

The holidays don’t have to be a miserable mess just because you are divorced. You and your former spouse can work together to create memories for your children that you can be proud of in the future. We want them to look back on their childhoods and know that it was awful their parents were divorced, but at least their parents put their differences aside to focus solely on the children. We are working hard on that by creating new memorable traditions in our new blended family in addition to the list above.

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Although this is focused on Christmas, I feel very strongly that these are all characteristics that should be modeled throughout the year. Being unselfish parents who encourage open communication and model faith, joy, love, peace and hope when dealing with your ex is the best gift you can give to your kids over the holidays… and all year long.

I promise that the joy YOU will receive by doing so will be an unexpected gift to yourself.

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